When adults teach kids and teenagers about sports for the first time, the value of sportsmanship is inevitably mentioned, possibly combined with lines like “t doesn’t matter who wins or who loses” or “what’s important is that you enjoyed playing.”
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But the importance of fair play and respect for contenders can often be neglected, especially when competitiveness settles in and the heat of the moment takes over. These instances can lead players to display poor sporting behaviors like using offensive language and losing self-control.
Throughout history, sports education experts continue to reiterate that athletes should recognize the significance of sportsmanship in both contact and non-contact sports, as having respect for competitors allows athletes to fully mature.
Sportsmanship enables athletes to acknowledge their rivals as a necessary feature of the match, since without them, no game will ever be held. Sportsmanship also teaches athletes that their competitors are the same as their selves—people with dreams, plans, and goals they need to pursue.
Furthermore, when athletes stop seeing rivals as “enemies,” they can easily strive for personal improvement. By respecting competitors, players can just focus on beating their personal best in each game rather than overcoming their opponents. In this case, improvement becomes a major reward, and winning becomes a by-product.