Win, lose or draw it's always important to play within the rules.
We all go out onto the field of play wanting to win the match. That is how it should be. But playing hard doesn’t mean that you don’t play fair.
All sports have written rules and laws. Without them there would be chaos. It would be like trying to use the roads when there was no highway code and you could drive on either side of the street.
There are also unwritten rules in sport, and it’s important that we abide by those as well. They can all be summed up in one word – “sportsmanship”.
So what is sportsmanship? Basically, it is people treating each other with respect when they play sport. And this includes players, parents, coaches officials and spectators. But what does this actually mean in practice?
- Having a positive attitude at all times and always trying to do your best.
- Encouraging your teammates to do their best and not criticising them for trying.
- Shaking hands with your opponent(s) before and after the game.
- Treating your opponent(s) with respect, and not abusing or making fun of them.
- Accepting the officials’ decisions and not berating them.
- Abiding by the rules of the game.
- Taking pride and satisfaction in winning, but without rubbing it in.
- Accepting defeat with good grace and not moaning or making excuses.
Showing sportsmanship is not being soft or weak. Far from it. It shows that you are mentally tough and that you can rebound quickly when faced with disappointment because you know that you have done your best and that you will learn from the experience.
Always remember that for every winner, there has to be a loser. That was superbly illustrated by the cricketer Andrew Flintoff in the Ashes series of 2005. England won the Second Test by just one run when the last Australian batman was out. The not-out batsman was fast bowler Brett Lee, who had been engaged in a fiercely competitive battle with Flintoff throughout the match, with both men bowling at 90mph plus at each other. As soon as the last wicket fell, Flintoff did not rush to celebrate with his team-mates, but instead commiserated with Lee and shook his hand.
It was a gesture that Stan would have appreciated – as the great Pele remarked, “he taught us all how to play.”
Proof indeed, that playing hard and playing fair do go together.