As renowned basketball coach John Wooden once said, "Sports do not build character, they reveal it."
Through sports, there can be times of disagreement. Choosing to take the high road and respect a decision can be challenging. But respecting the rules of the game keeps the game fair and honest, and it helps us all practice good sportsmanship. If there were no rules, what would be the point in the sport?
At the end of the day there is a winning team and a losing team, and many people volunteer their time to give others an opportunity to have a fair and honest contest they can enjoy.
Along with respecting the rules of the game, it is valuable to treat others the way you would want to be treated. Put yourself in the referee's shoes when they make a decision regarding a play. Their calls are based on what they see and how they interpret the play, and the rules provide them with the authority to make these determinations. Even if you disagree with a call, there is an opportunity to learn and move forward. It is when the game becomes disrespected because of trash talk, cussing and other types of unsportsmanlike conduct that tension is created and others are not treated the way they should be.
Unsportsmanlike conduct is not following the rules and guidelines of the game, and this type of behavior is also an opportunity to educate athletes and spectators on the importance of lending a hand to others when they are down.
Sportsmanship goes beyond the play of the game and can be essential in our daily lives. There are many things in life that can be deemed unfair and require us to practice proper sportsmanship to move forward. Our actions are often viewed by those around us, including youth, parents, coaches and others we may not even know. How we conduct ourselves in these moments sets an example, and we should strive to set a positive one.
It is important to for us to forgive ourselves as well. We all make mistakes during the game. Move forward and learn from that mistake. It is important to focus back on the competition and always give your best effort. Don't let one mistake be a ripple effect. Use every moment to learn and grow yourself as an athlete.
One of the goals as an athlete, parent, coach or a referee is to create opportunities to develop children into well-dignified members of society through sports. It is important to carry lessons learned from athletics into any profession. Mistakes will be made, but it's how you deal with it that builds character. We should always strive for improvement in our lives, just as we do in sports.
Those who respect others, handle failure with grace and manage success with humility will be better teammates and employees. They will also be viewed as leaders on their teams, in their professions and in their communities. Instilling proper sportsmanship should be a priority for us all because the impact will be felt in more places than just the soccer field or basketball court.
It will be felt in our community for many years to come.
Craig Hall has served as the sports director at the Jefferson City Area YMCA since 2012. He has a strong passion for youth sports and has been a coach for many youth basketball and football teams over the years.