BLOG: Building Strength, Building Character (sportsmanship and encouraging others)

Sportsmanship is a learned trait. While many athletes are naturally gracious, no one likes to lose. With that being said, much of the behavior they exhibit on the field are learned traits that they pick up from their peers and their parents. Competition is a good thing when it is used as a motivator to encourage student-athletes to do their very best. It can be extremely challenging when it gets taken to the extreme and a win must be achieved no matter what the cost. As an educator, it’s up to you to teach your students the true value of sportsmanship and that even a loss can result in a victory if you learn something in the process.

Strength and Power Are Two Different Things

Even incredibly weak people have the power to say the most hurtful things. They may be strong when it comes to physical strength, but if their strength isn’t supported by compassion their words can be incredibly damaging. When training your students, remember to strengthen their minds as well as their bodies. Encouragement is something that can be passed on. While you are encouraging them to improve, remind them to encourage others. Supporting others who may be struggling is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of character and it works to strengthen the group as a whole.

It Takes Two

Many student-athletes are so driven by the need to win that they forget the value of their opponent. Without someone to compete against, there would be no victory of any kind. It’s important that you remind your athletes that the true value of any competition shouldn’t be weighed only by who won or lost. It should be weighed by the value of the teams and the players who make up the field. Any championship team can struggle and falter, but it’s in how they recover that their value and worth is shown. After losing a game, it isn’t the winner’s value that increases. The sportsmanship qualities both teams exhibit to one another makes sure both teams share the value. One in lessons learned that will allow them to improve and the other in respecting their opponent.

Lessons Learned from Loss

A team can lose and only lay the blame at the feet of others, or they can look at their level of play. What could they have done better? Was someone just not on their game? Did everyone work together as a team? The only loser is a team that doesn’t take the loss as an opportunity for growth. A true sportsman is one who accepts the loss and then commits to doing better the next time. Congratulating the other team and sharing your support for their hard-earned win is what will make both teams stand out to others. Each student-athlete will look at loss differently. It’s up to you as an educator to help them realize how important it is to support and respect others, no matter who wins or loses.

It’s All About Respect

Whether it is as a member of a team or an individual competitor, each athlete is responsible for their own behavior and their own level of play. Winning may be the desired goal, but a loss will eventually occur. The athlete’s character will be determined by how he or she reacts to not just losing, but winning as well. An athlete who respects his or her opponent will be gracious no matter the outcome. Belittling an opponent who has lost a competition does not make them a better winner. It actually detracts from their character. As a teacher, it should always be your goal to encourage your students to be respectful both on the field and off. Building character starts with teaching your athletes respect in all situations. Win or lose, it’s their character and sportsmanship that will define them as a model athlete.

Whether a student has natural athletic ability or not, when they enter a physical education class it is up to the teacher to educate them on the importance of good sportsmanship. Teach them to encourage and appreciate one another, no matter what their skill level, and you will eventually begin to see the better athletes stopping to encourage those who are struggling. Teach respect and sportsmanship will follow closely behind. The result will be a student-athlete with a strong character who understands that even a loss can be counted as a small victory towards improvement.

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