By definition, sportsmanship is the ability to be gracious in winning or losing.
Too bad the reality of sportsmanship is not as simple as a sentence in a dictionary.
Last week, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association announced plans for a sportsmanship program initiative for the 2010-11 school year at its annual summer meeting.
It’s a move I applaud, but I also know that promoting sportsmanship will likely be a harder sell than it should be.
Unfortunately, we have no one but ourselves to blame. That’s because we live in a society that glorifies professional athletes, which can be both good and bad.
By now, we’ve all heard the phrase you are what you eat. Well, I’ve got another one for you — our children are becoming what they see.
Like it or not, young athletes on all levels model the behavior they see as they display their custom sneakers and gear.
Some professional athletes are great role models. They’re involved in community service and do the right things on the field or the court.
For every positive role model, there seems to be a negative influence.
The NBA playoffs have been exciting and entertaining. There have also been instances in which players have glared at each other and talked back to either coaches or game officials.
The Major League Baseball season still has a long way to go, but there have already been a couple of fights and ejections. Last week, there was even a NASCAR owner fined for going after the driver competing for a rival racing team.
Some role models closer to home aren’t any better. A colleague detailed a story about a T-ball game that had to be stopped because of the behavior and language of the adults.
Everybody loves fiery coaches because they make the games more interesting. When players take cues from the coach, that demeanor can turn into the wrong kind of aggression. Bad things can, and do, happen.
Teams and individuals also seem to confuse the concepts of confidence and arrogance.
Confidence is the belief that you’re the best, leading to actions to prove that point. Arrogance is an offensive sense of superiority that is flaunted in the face of opponents.
If we’re not careful, sportsmanship may become the exception and not the golden rule it should be. A list of disqualifications recorded by the LHSAA over the last two years help prove that point.
In 2010-11, a total of 501 ejections for players and coaches were recorded in seven different sports — baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, volleyball and wrestling.
That number was an increase of just three from 498 in 2009-10, which truly isn’t a lot. Of course, the goal should always be to reduce the number of ejections.
The LHSAA has offered proposals that would provide a scale of sanctions to handle anything from first-timers to repeat offenders. Each time, member principals have rejected the proposals because fines were attached.
Fighting in particular is a hot-button topic. I’d like to see the principals approve some sanctions for fighting, even if it means punitive fines have to be left out.
Does this mean that I think all coaches and athletes who are ejected are bad people? Of course not.
We all have moments when we say or do something we wish we could take back.
But an emphasis on sportsmanship should help minimize those moments. In this case, less really would be more.