Updated: Sep 22, 2020
"Good sportsmanship means treating others with respect."
- Tommy Hilfiger
My observations while watching a youth lacrosse game.
During the game, an athlete started playing very physical to the point of drawing multiple penalties. For the purpose of this article, I will hypothetically name said athlete Joe. Each time the flags were thrown, Joe played the role of the victim by blamed the opponent for provoking him to retaliate, blamed the parents for influencing the referee to penalize him, and how he was just being treated unfairly.
There was another moment in the game when an athlete from the opposing team, again for the purpose of this article, I will call him Brett. Brett was playing defense ended up accidentally poke checking Joe in the throat with his stick. The Joe went down and was momentarily stunned and surprised by what happened. Unfortunately, the referee had missed what happened and no penalty was called, it went unnoticed by the coaches, referees, and most of the parents.
What happened next was a true act of sportsmanship. Instead of just turning and continuing to play the game, Brett stopped to ask if Joe was ok, apologized for what he did, and helped him up. Both continued to play the game. No complaining from either player, they just continued to play. Coincidentally, it was also the last time in the game that Joe complained about being treated unfairly.
This act of sportsmanship created a quick ripple effect that went pretty much unnoticed by everyone. It was also a reminder that the game is bigger than just winning and losing. It’s about playing hard, playing to compete, and playing because it’s fun.
In the end, sportsmanship and leadership is about modeling appropriate behavior whether anyone notices or not. It's key when it comes to planting seeds of growth and love for the game.