When my younger son was playing soccer – he was seven or eight years old at the time – he tumbled out of bounds and down a little hill. When he climbed back up the slope to the soccer pitch he was covered in burrs.
As he began to delicately remove the prickly burrs, play resumed – except that one player on the opposing team, the player marking my son, stopped to assist my son in removing the prickers. And he continued to help my son until all the burrs were removed. Only then did the two of them rejoin the game, together.
Observing this profoundly shaped my belief that sportsmanship is not dead. It’s not out of date and it’s not out of style. Good sporting behavior is in our bones, in our DNA.
Even before they can pronounce the word, and long before they can define it, kids know what sportsmanship is.
Change the rules in the middle of a game with six, seven or eight year olds – any card game, board game or sports game – and they’ll shout, “Hey, that’s not fair!” We must assure that natural instinct is still demonstrative when they are 16, 17 and 18 year olds.