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Learning a sportsmanship lesson

By Staff | Aug 12, 2012

Is there any little girl in America who isn’t trying to do gymnastics in their living room after having watched the Olympics for the last two weeks?

They probably are using the coffee table for a balance beam and couch cushions for tumbling mats.

And begging mom and dad that they can sign up for gymnastics classes.

It’s easy to catch Olympics fever. I know I did.

My favorite part is not so much the competition or seeing how many gold medals the U.S. can rack up, but rather seeing the comarderie of all the athletes and catching some glimpses of world class sportsmanship as well as world class athleticism.

There is something about seeing a person who just won gold and set a world record go and congratulate everyone else who was in the race. Or trade his name badge with the person who just ran a race using artificial limbs. Or watching the entire crowd in the arena stand and cheer a woman from Saudi Arabia who was dead last in her race, but was the first woman from her country to ever compete.

There seemed to be many cases of good sportsmanship at the Olympics, and few examples of poor sportsmanship.

I, for one, took not a lot of pride seeing the U.S. basketball team defeat another team by about 100 points. In fact, I started to feel bad for the other team. Isn’t there a point where you quit shooting the basketball and just play defense?

I have seen that in a high school basketball game, where a team that would eventually end up going to the state tournament was playing a team from a new charter school.

The score at the half was something like 60 to 6.

In the second half the coach of the better team played every player on the bench. Near the end of the game he instructed his team’s players to just play defense and only shoot if they were wide open. At the end of the game, the better team had not hit 100 points, although they easily could have.

At the end of the game the players congratulated the other team’s players and genuinely seemed to mean it.

Sportsmanship can be found on many different levels.

There was a miniature version of the Olympics in Blue Earth a week ago.

It was the Blue Earth Area Triathlon (B.E.A.T.) for younger kids. And, a lot of them showed up, even though it was a rainy Saturday morning.

While it was a competition of sorts, I noticed several cases where parents were helping and encouraging and guiding other kids than just their own.

I also noticed many kids who were smiling and were having a good time.

After all, isn’t that the main reason for sports? Aren’t they supposed to be fun?

That was the other enjoyable part of the Olympics – seeing many of the athletes who actually looked like they were having fun, and were thrilled to win a medal, any medal, and not just the gold medal.

I watched some eight-year-olds play baseball this summer. And some eighth-graders play ball.

With the eight-year-olds there are some interesting rules.

For instance, everyone bats every inning. If three outs occur, the bases are cleared of runners, but everyone continues to bat until they all have had a chance.

The coaches from both teams encourage all of the players from both teams, high-fiving them all for a good play, or for just trying hard.

Fans applaud good play from any player of either team. And shout out words of encouragement to all players, even those who are just trying hard but may not hit the ball each time they are up at the plate.

Scores are irrelevant and no one really knows who won. And the kids are having fun.

Somehow, by the time they become eighth-graders this changes and winning becomes a lot more important.

There seems to be more yelling at the players, coaches and umps.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still good sportsmanship in all level of sports. But, it seems to disappear as the level rises from kids to teens to adults and from amateur to professional.

Winning has become so important that being a good sport for players and fans alike can be easily lost.

Too bad good sportsmanship can’t enter in as a factor into the final score.

In a perfect world, sports wouldn’t just be about winning. It would be about doing your best and helping others improve their skills and applauding the person who gives it their best effort.

It wouldn’t just be about winning.

In a perfect world, everyone would get a turn to bat.