By Ken Reed
If you watch sports, or are involved in sports in anyway, you hear the term “sportsmanship” frequently. Too often it’s a word that is simply given lip service.
I coach my daughter’s 7th grade basketball team and I regularly stress the importance of sportsmanship with our players. I do this assuming that they know what I mean by the word sportsmanship. I make quick comments about “playing fair” and “doing the right thing,” but I never go into specifics. The players typically nod and I move on.
One day, one of my players asked me, “What do you mean exactly when you say sportsmanship?” I quickly mumbled something that I thought sounded pretty good at the time, but later I started thinking about my answer and I realized I wasn’t happy with it. Despite stressing the importance of sportsmanship, I didn’t have a good definition of it in my own head.
So, I spent that evening contemplating the concept of sportsmanship a little more and came up with this description of what I believe it’s all about:
Sportsmanship is the Golden Rule of sports. It’s treating the people you play with, and against, as you’d like to be treated yourself.
Sportsmanship means playing hard AND fair. It’s acknowledging that opponents are fellow competitors who are there to help you bring out the best in yourself, and vice versa. Without fellow competitors to compete against, there are no sports. Opponents are simply fellow athletes who love the game and are striving to be the best they can be. They are not enemies and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Demonstrating sportsmanship requires showing respect for the game, yourself, your teammates, your opponents, and the referees, judges and other officials needed to have a game.
I feel a lot better about that answer than the one I gave to that player on my 7th grade team.
Above all, I feel sportsmanship is about bringing the ethics of the Golden Rule into the realm of sports. That holds true for athletes, coaches, game officials, administrators, executives, owners, and fans.
A little more sportsmanship from everyone involved in the world of sports would go a long way toward improving the sports experience for all stakeholders.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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