Education is incomplete without sports, and it is also safe to say sports are incomplete without proper sportsmanship education. Nevertheless, the choice made by athletes to engage in sportsmanlike behavior depends mainly on how the sport is organized by everyone from coaches, parents, and fans.
Healthy sportsmanship starts with an understanding that the principal nature of athletics, sports, and physical education are an essential part of the educational process, presenting innumerable opportunities to learn skills that can be used in other aspects of life.
The teaching of healthy sportsmanship provides an excellent chance for athletes to build life skills such as character, teamwork, honor and fair play, excellence and hard work, discipline, overcoming adversity and failure, resiliency and perseverance, and the importance of developing a competitive spirit. These are all success and survival skills, and they are all the direct benefits of teaching good sportsmanship.
Sports typically are an extension of our values and morals. If someone participates in unsportsmanlike behavior, we must consider where exactly unsportsmanlike behaviors arise from. Lousy sportsmanship is a learned behavior, just like good sportsmanship. We all learn moral behavior from engaging with others, watching the behaviors of others, or being taught ethical behavior. Therefore, teaching and appropriate modeling behaviors can enhance sportsmanlike behaviors.
Being involved in sport alone is not sufficient to ensure that athletes will learn sportsmanlike attitudes and behaviors. Instead, the social interactions fostered by the sports experience will determine the benefit of sport to athletes. Achieving that benefit requires that the designated leaders within the sport take action to teach ethical and moral behavior in that respective sport.
Restoring and maintaining sportsmanship and civility in athletics must become a shared concern. If athletes are not exposed to the foundations of sportsmanship and are not appropriately guided through its development, we can all but guarantee failure. It will result in uncivilized conduct they see, model, and reinforce from examples they have been exposed to.
Sportsmanship is an action verb, and it is a concept we must actively teach and reinforce through our words and actions at every opportunity because healthy sportsmanship is something we should promote as much as possible.