What Happened to Sportsmanship?



It is something that was hammered into my head from the beginning of my sports career when my mom still dressed me in skirts for my tee ball games. You should be respectful, always helping a player up if you knock them down, and make sure to be kind when you shake hands at the end of the game.

And if athletes everywhere had the same kind of childhood that I did, there must be some sort of disconnect that comes with growing up. At the college level, and even at the high school level, I have played against girls that have lacked in all facets of sportsmanship.

They trash talked.

They threw elbows.

They knocked us down and did not even look our way to help us up.

And the worst part about it was going through the line after the game was over. There were people who would say nasty things going through the line instead of the standard “good game.”

The big question is, what is the disconnect?

Were they not taught the same ideals that I was? Did they just forget them? Did winning become so important that they just forgot?

Or was it not their fault? Somewhere along the way, did someone influence them into thinking it wasn’t an important part of sports?

I have seen many a coach in my time as a player, coach, and an official that seems to have thrown the idea of sportsmanship completely out the window. At a young age, too, sometimes. By ten years old, girls are disrespecting umpires and being rude to the other team, especially when they lose, because that is the example their coach is setting for them.

I think that in order to preserve the way that sports should be played and to keep the same amount of fun in the game for all participants, sportsmanship needs to become an emphasis again.

And it needs to carry over to the collegiate and professional levels, because young athletes look up to those they see on TV. If they see Lebron James flipping someone the bird on live television, it is likely that they will want to mimic it, just like they would want to dunk like him.

Wherever the disconnect is, there needs to be an emphasis. Coaches need to help their athletes to understand the importance of being a good sport, and the players need to respond to it.

I have been fortunate as an athlete to have had coaches throughout my career that have remembered to help us have fun, win some games, and become better people. While a few of the coaches I had in high school are exceptions to the rule, the majority have adhered to the standard.

Maybe I am a little biased, because I grew up in a family with two parents who were coaches. My dad coached my sisters and me in softball and basketball all throughout our youth careers. In addition, my mom coached all of us in middle school volleyball for two years and later began to coach our softball league teams.

I saw the way that they coached, and the values they instilled in my brain stuck. There have been times when I have apologized to someone I have been playing against for fouling them in the middle of the game. And that was not just when I was younger, it still happens even though I am nearly a senior in college.

I am a strong believer that the lessons you learn through sports, especially at a young age, translate over into real life situations. If the value of sportsmanship is no longer taught to young athletes, their behaviors on the field will be mirrored in their everyday lives.