The spirit of sportsmanship

One man practicing sportsmanship is better than a hundred teaching it. Knute Rockne

In an extremely competitive world, there is a strong temptation to take advantage of the slightest loopholes that one can get through even if it means bending the rules, conveniently interpreting the law or covertly sidestepping the norms. Giving in to such temptation means that while we may achieve our objectives, we would be hard-pressed to relish the fruits of our labor for at the back of our minds and deep in our hearts we know that we aren’t worthy of the success we craved and achieved. It is against this backdrop that one has to understand the importance of demonstrating sportsmanship and set a good example than merely being pulpit preachers.

The sports field is resplendent with shining examples of great sportsmanship. Go back to the 1936 Olympics and the sportsmanship of Luz Long the German long jump medal hope helping Jesse Owens the black American to make a clean jump and ultimately win the Gold medal is now almost part of sports folklore. Closer home, we have the legendry Sachin Tendulkar walk to the pavilion the moment he knows that he has nicked a bowl and is caught even if the umpire has given a not out verdict. What makes these people choose the path of righteous without flinching or having second thoughts. If one understands that psychology and applied it in our lives we would all be winners for we would never have to live a moment with a guilty conscience.

Here are three guiding principles that uphold the values of sportsmanship:

The spirit of the game is bigger than any victory that is tainted. When a game is played be it on the sports field or in other facets of life, a level playing field and common rules are passé. It is therefore logical that anyone who plays the game recognize these and play within the framework of the same. Yet the urge to win, the desire to outsmart the competition and the devilish war cry’ victory at any cost’ exert so much pressure on the participants that some of them succumb and use foul means to attain their objectives. However these victories are often short lived for a true champion will always triumph by the strength of his own ability. They play in the true spirit of the game and don’t mind sacrificing a victory if they feel it would tainted.

There is only one standard that governs our life and that is the standard of fair play. True champions work hard, play fair and remain competitive but never will they ever resort to unfair practices, sly tactics or surreptitious means to corner a victory. Cheating in exams is perhaps the most widespread act of poor sportsmanship. One may argue that it hardly affects anyone since one is trying to improve one’s own marks without any real threat to toppers. The problem though is that we are being unfair to ourselves and erodes the values that good education would have instilled in us. In the long term this could be counterproductive for we would be embolden to skate on the thin ice of temptation to cheat.

Overcoming temptation is the biggest victory of all. The real victory that we all need to relish is victory over our own temptations. This is though because there is pressure to perform, there is competition snapping at our heels and there would be others who won’t bat an eyelid in using unethical means to trample over the competition. The urge to give tit for tat, to play the game by the redefined but illegal rules and the killer instinct that nudges one to slaughter the competition no matter what the cost are hard to side step. The real sportsmanship though is in controlling our selves and resisting the urge to compromise our principles for paltry gain. Real victory is in conquering our temptations for that is a lifelong process.

Try these:

  1. Recollect 2 instances where you bend the rules to gain some victory. Also outline 3 instances where you resisted all temptations and paid a price but have no regrets.
  2. You are not in good terms with a colleague who has in the past played dirty with you on some projects. However today he is representing your organization in a prestigious competition and urgently requires a reference book for preparation. You know someone who has the book which is now out of print. Would you volunteer to get the book to your colleague to help him prepare better and win?

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