-Bring your “A” game every time. Your opponent deserves that respect. They deserve to know they won/lost against the best you could bring, that the measure of the final score was the true measure. That means playing hard, playing to win.
-Lose graciously. If you brought your A game, and they brought theirs, you were bested - congratulate them and go back to training, figure out what made them better and attack the weakness in your game.
-Win even more graciously. If your best was better than theirs, it doesn’t diminish the effort involved to get there on either side. Congratulate them on fighting hard, thank them for the honest competition which made you elevate your own game, and look forward to the next meeting.
-Play by the rules. Enforce the rules within your own team. This also means respectfully arguing a bad call from time to time, but knowing when to accept that the call is final and moving on with the game. It’s a rare occurrence indeed when a ref/umpire/official singlehandedly wins or loses an event for someone - accept the call and move on.
When cheering someone on….
-Cheer them on with enthusiasm, but with respect. Don’t denigrate the other team. Respect the effort that put them on the field and you in the stands. This still holds true if it’s your child playing or a friend playing a game that isn’t “your” sport. They worked hard, and the accomplishments are theirs alone. Managers and coaches as the highest levels regularly refuse to accept credit for the accomplishments of the athletes playing for them - we can all learn from them. Enjoy the accomplishments and help your atheletes and teams enjoy them.
-Let the officials officiate. Unless you’re on the field, wearing the uniform of the official, the only impact your argument can have is a negative one on the team you’re trying to support.
-When the event is over, congratulate the winners and the losers. See the first point above - respect and acknowledge the effort that got them there, and kept them playing until the end.
PARENTS and those who guide young atheletes - Pick the right sporting role models. Pick the ones who got where they are through sustained, dedicated effort. When choosing a team of any sort I look for the middle of the pack - the pluggers - before I look for the gazelles who can’t be bothered to make the extra effort. If an athelete is good and works their rear end off to get to the lower end of great, I’ll talk that athelete up at every opportunity as an example. On the other side, when I see a naturally gifted athelete who stays just shy of truly great because of lack of effort, I’ll dismiss them out of hand when choosing a role model to provide a young aspiring star.
Being proud of, and celebrating an accomplishment or setting a record, but remembering that you are not the only one on the team. Working together to help the team do great things. Being proud of your team’s accomplishments and celebrate victory without the name calling and smack talk I see so often in professional sports. It is perfectly acceptable to reward the winner. They won for a reason. Everyone is not special. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to harass, goad, or name-call the losing team. Shake hands and move on.
I guess I have something a bit more specific to add to all of these good responses.
At some point, you’re going to run into someone who disrespects the game, breaks the rules, plays dirty. It’s easy to get caught up in that poor play in an effort to “get even.” I’m all for getting even, and then some, but I think it’s critical to do so in one way only: destroy your disrespectful/dirty opponents within the boundaries and rules of the game. Then you offer your hand.
It’s honorable and way more satisfying than stooping to their level.
I believe that sportsmanship, among other things, involves the understanding of two points: The nature of the competition and whom you represent.
The nature of the competition can vary and it is important to understand whether you are at a church social or an olympic qualifier. A sportsman will adjust their level of intensity, effort, tolerance, and other factors appropriately. I knew a young man who was very good at soccer. He went on to play professionally for a bit, but he could not recognize a casual game of soccer. In an after-work pickup game he took out the knee of another player. This was a game where we didn’t play with referees or goalies or watch the clock. We just played. He could not understand this and played the game at a level of intensity that was beyond the rest of us. It was also unneccessary.
Whom you represent takes a level of maturity to understand that in most competitions you are not alone. You represent at least your family and possibly your team, business, town, state, country, race, religion, etc. Sportsmanship is understanding that you represent more than yourself and that your actions, clothes, language, and actions off the field are being judged.