Being a Good Sport

What is sportsmanship?

Sportsmanship is defined as fair and generous behaviour or treatment of others while participating in a sport game or competition. In a nutshell, to be a good sportsman or woman your behaviour will be consistent regardless of whether you win or lose. Good sportsmanship involves:

  • Being a good team player – ensuring everyone is included in your team effort
  • Treating everyone as equal as well as respecting teammates, players on the opposing team and umpires
  • Fair play – respecting and abiding by the rules
  • Being humble – accepting wins graciously, being considerate of the losing team or athletes
  • Accepting responsibility for mistakes (not taking it out on or blaming anyone else)

Examples of bad sportsmanship include:

  • Being disrespectful or rude towards an umpire, teammate or the opposition
  • Being inconsiderate to fellow teammates and the opposition
  • Blaming equipment or others for your own mistakes or poor performance

Benefits of competition in physical education

We asked our Head of Sport, Paul Hodgson, what good sportsmanship means to him both as a coach and teacher and as an ex-professional rugby union player.

  • Did a competitive spirit help you to succeed in your career?

Most certainly. Within rugby, I don’t feel I was the most skilful player and I wasn’t the biggest, strongest or fastest athlete naturally. But through my competitiveness, I became one of the fittest. Along with my discipline, this is what allowed me – in my opinion – to succeed in my career.

Types of competition in physical education

  • How can we use competitiveness in a positive way, for example to drive progress?

To use competitiveness in a positive way, as teachers and coaches, we should try to remove its association with winning, at least in terms of the focus being on winning. Specific praise can be given for gracious and professional behaviours, creativity, hard work, sportsmanship, innovation, teamwork and discipline. Children will naturally be competitive but with these important concepts which in turn will drive progress.

Examples of sportsmanship and gamesmanship

  • What are the important traits and behaviours of good sportsmen and women?

Firstly, to be a good person. Life is bigger than sport, on any level. But sport can help, develop and enforce behaviours that can benefit every aspect of life for each individual. Respect, discipline, honesty, relentless determination, optimism, humility are some of the traits which can have a strong crossover from sport to other life skills. Johnny Wilkinson who is one of the best rugby players to have played the game represents these listed traits. I’m in no doubt it has helped him achieve what he has on the rugby field and of course, has made him the highly respected person he is today.

  • How can we encourage children to be polite and friendly even to their biggest rivals?

Educate that it is the right thing to do (see above), lead by example when interacting with all students and staff at sports fixtures and instil this from an early age. Encourage to shake hands and recite three cheers for opposition after every match. Include officials in this tradition. Firm stance on players who refuse to do this, but again explain why. Coaches and PE teachers need to act as role models, showcasing the behaviour which they wish the players to follow.

  • How have you channelled your competitive spirit?

Of course I haven’t completely, I still want to win. But I fully understand the process of what the important things are, probably in ways now as a teacher, which I didn’t when I was at school. For example, to develop an athlete most effectively you can’t prioritise winning. And prioritising winning doesn’t aid skill acquisition. I believe that you can nurture talent, prioritising on being a good person and a competitive person but in a respectful way. Finally, I coach a men’s rugby team outside of school where I can further channel my competitive spirit.

When it comes to competitiveness in sport, we aim to channel this personality trait to produce good sportsmen and women who are not only skilled athletes but who practice professionalism and good sportsmanship. A degree of competitiveness is beneficial because it can motivate children to practice and progress in their chosen sport. But in order to become pro athletes and popular teammates, good sportsmanship is essential.