Twenty years ago the MHSAA received a plaque from a member school that I continue to prize above all other awards our organization has received. The plaque reads: “In recognition of outstanding contributions to interscholastic athletics, and for promotion of sportsmanship as a way of life for all young athletes.”
There are no words I would more prefer to describe the work of the MHSAA then and now than those highlighted words. No work we do is any more important than promoting sportsmanship as a way of life. Reduced to a phrase, that’s our most essential purpose; that’s our product.
Not victories, titles or championships, but sportsmanship. Not awards or records, but sportsmanship.
It’s teaching and learning sportsmanship more than speed and strength; sportsmanship more than coordination and conditioning; sportsmanship more than skills and strategies. Even more than teamwork, hard work, discipline and dedication, it’s sportsmanship we teach and learn.
In Discovery of Morals, the sociologist author (not a sportsman) writes, “Sportsmanship is probably the clearest and most popular expression of morals. Sportsmanship is a thing of the spirit. It is timeless and endless; and we should strive to make it universal to all races, creeds and walks in life.”
Sportsmanship is more than a list of dos and don’ts; more than grace in victory and defeat; more than how we play the game and watch the games. It’s how we live our lives.
Sportsmanship begins in our homes. We work on it in practice. It extends to games. It reaches up to the crowd. It permeates the school halls and shopping malls. And it begins to affect society for good, or for bad.