Being A Good Sport

Sports, an age-old, respectable pursuit, has emerged in the media and in education as a front runner, a model of what it takes to build character. In any sport, "being a good sport" means acting in a way that meets certain high ethical standards.

Sports require you to develop an amazing array of character traits. As an athlete you have to become sensitive to something beyond the stated rules of the sport – you have to learn the unwritten rules of what athletes expect from one another. Briefly told, it's what we call the ethics of good sportsmanship, or of "being a good sport." For instance, in any athletic training or competition you'll learn things such as patience, courage, self-discipline, coordination, controlling emotions, being attentive in the face of tense or tedious moments – and these are all the stuff that goes into being a good sport. In addition, as we all know, playing in your favorite sport is one of life's great pleasures. And it's a source of valuable self-esteem, particularly when you work hard to develop athletic prowess.
Sports is a testing ground for many traits that go into being a good person. Here are the traits that make up being a good sport.

1. First, you have to develop basic skills of the game.
The physical demands in every sport involve a delicate coordination of mind and body There are different yardsticks in every sport for speed, strength, endurance, coordination, stamina, and even style. The physical prowess involved in golf is different than that required for hockey. As an athlete, you want to excel in whatever the game demands. You're committed to using your skills for one purpose – for the sake of winning. In addition to the physical demands, you'll learn to be daring, to hope, to develop quickness of mind, and the ability to size up your opponent. These are all traits we can use throughout life.

2. Next, you have to practice, and that means discipline.
You have to get into a practice mode when you get into a sport. Sports have to be practiced just as the piano has to be practiced. Practice means repetition. Practicing of technique often can be fun, but in any case it's crucial to success. The idea behind practice is that eventually the skill you are aiming at comes under hand. Once you achieve a skill it becomes like a habit, second nature, and the difficulty disappears. When practicing, each of us has a different challenge, whether it's working on your endurance, your coordination, your speed, or your concentration--and it's great when you start to master each part.

3. Playing by the rules (not cheating) goes without saying.
It's much more fun to win than to lose, and people are sometimes tempted to bend the rules in order to win. That's why sports have judges or referees. It's a fact of life that there are winners and losers. Losing is an inevitable part of living. Playing by the rules means that someone will lose the game, or someone will bungle a particular move – and being the loser is humbling. But it's also good because it helps strengthen character. And playing by the rules means that the winner wins with honor, and that it was a good game. By "good game" I mean that the players were equally matched, it was competitively challenging, it was fairly played, and the best players won.

4. At the bottom, being a good sport requires courage.
The hallmark of a good sport is someone with courage. Courage comes into play, for instance, by displaying more of nobility and less of shame if you are defeated. It takes courage to be humble and proud in defeat. But by doing so you pre-serve your self-respect and show that you know that winning is important, but it's not all-important. Being a good sport means recognizing that character is more important than who won. Courage also comes into play in how you handle getting hurt. Few activities help build courage the way sports do.

5. Dealing with emotions – such as anger.
It's a skill to be able to control your emotions in difficult circumstances. Anger is the most common emotion that can get you into trouble in any sport. Few activities help build the proper control of our passions the way sports do.

6. Winning gives a boost to your self-esteem, which is valuable and pleasurable.
Winning heightens your personal confidence, and the oomph you get from win-fling does great things to promote a healthy self-esteem. When you win, you are an object of admiration and esteem from others. Winning also means that you have achieved a certain excellence in your skill.

You might have further ideas of your own, which could be added to expand this list. The interesting thing about sports is that it's hard to fathom any other area of life which can boast of so many character-building features!

Remember that playing in sports isn't work except, of course, for those who make money doing it. It's supposed to invigorate you and give you a break from the hum-drum of the everyday.

However, some people are too intense in their competition, and that isn't fun for them or their partners.

You may have a variety of reasons for playing your sport. For some, it's a simple therapy, a healthful exercise, and for others it's an outlet for aggression. For everyone, though, it's a vehicle for character building and a source of occasional personal triumphs.

Regardless of motive, each participant in the sport will gain in excellence in one way or another. That's why the modern Olympics founder, Baron de Coubertin, said this about the Olympic Games: “The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part; as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

— John Alan Cohan
Reprinted from Wrestling USA