If sportsmanship can make a comeback, it needs to start from the top|Opinion

By AJ Apel

A LACK of sportsmanship has led to a decline in the quality of the sports experience.Sportsmanship is defined as a quality of fairness, respect, and courtesy in sports activities. It is an attitude that places honor and respect for the game and its players before victory. 

In an ideal world, individual players are guided by principles of good sportsmanship both on and off the field and all obstacles to achieving this virtuous behavior should be removed. Unfortunately, in today’s sports environment, competition has grown increasingly intense and selfishness has overpowered sportsmanship.

First of all, the trend of overvaluing individual performance over team success has certainly contributed to the demise of sportsmanship. For a lot of people, breaking records and achieving personal goals is far more important than citizenship, helping others or emphasizing team building. This shift has led to an increased emphasis on “‘win at all costs,” which has caused a drop in the overall level of sportsmanship. Perhaps the biggest decline in sportsmanship is due to college and professional athletes being poor examples for the youth of today.

There are countless examples of poor sportsmanship in collegiate and professional sports in recent years. One that went viral recently, which this column, comes from the NCAA women’s basketball national championship game in which LSU star Angel Reese can be seen what many consider to be taunting Iowa’s Caitlin Clark as the clock winds down. Reese is seen waving her hand in her face meaning “You can’t see me” and pointing to her ring finger as the time winds down on an LSU victory.

I asked professional lacrosse player Ryan Drenner about sportsmanship and whether it’s getting worse. Drenner, a Maryland native, starred during his years as a player at Towson University and was later taken 11th overall in the Premier Lacrosse League’s expansion draft.

“One hundred percent I think sportsmanship is dying and it’s because of the players these kids watch,” he told me. “They look up to pros as role models and want to copy everything they do and that includes all the bad stuff. Guys in the league know that deep down but let their emotions get the best of them.”

A former Auburn football player, Brian Shulman, wrote a book back in 2007 entitled “The Death of Sportsmanship – And How to Revive It .”

In the book he talks about the causes for poor sportsmanship and the ways to get it back: “As the games take on intimidating intensity, more and more children opt out. If young athletes are to learn and practice sportsmanship, it must be taught, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic; and coaches and parents are the ones who must learn it and teach it” he said.

He sees that sportsmanship is no longer something that is a part of the sport from the start but something that must be taught.

Being an athlete all throughout my life I have seen countless acts of unsportsmanlike behavior. One example from my life brings me back to my final year of high school lacrosse. I am running with the ball as a player on the opposing team is running toward me, I throw the ball to my teammate and the next thing I know I am being cross checked in the head to the ground. As I stand up I see two things: One is the flag from the obvious penalty. The other is the kid’s fist coming at my face for no reason.

This is the most blatant example I have personally experienced. Another example happened very recently to a teammate of mine who got a flag thrown on him and one of our opponents got in his face. My teammate did the mature thing and walked away and we thought that was the end of it until we get to the handshake line and one of the coaches on the other team walked past him and yelled “f— you 15.”

Reagan Wolford finishes rounding the bases after a home run at the women’s softball game against Widener University on April 22, 2023. (Brendan Bilo/The Spartan)

The fact that a coach is willing to say that to a player not on his team is astounding to me. There are plenty more examples that I could give but the list is too long, and that is the problem.

Youth and high school sports are supposed to be about fun and developing the game and not about winning, setting records and being like the pros. But that way of thinking has poisoned sports of today. The best way to bring us back to the golden age of sportsmanship is for the athletes that these kids look up to set good examples on and off the field.

AJ Apel is a sophomore Sport Media Major and a member of the men’s lacrosse team

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3 thoughts on “If sportsmanship can make a comeback, it needs to start from the top|Opinion

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