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Tao of Sportsmanship

Whether you are dealing with little league baseball, college football, competing in the Olympics, or running around the ring in a dog show, the way we win and the way we lose says more about the character of the participant than it does about the sport.

It is no great revelation that winning is more fun than losing.  Who would participate in any sport if they didn’t want and believe they could win?  Winning comes with the adrenaline rush, the spotlight, the moment of fame, and most of all the coveted affirmation that you and/or yours are the best of the best.

Winning with grace is a subject that seems to get lost in all the chaos and excitement, but maybe it should get its own share of the spotlight.  In competitive sports, every single person, every single team that wins does so because others did not.  Whether it happens a little or it happens a lot, if you are the winner you are in a position to demonstrate grace and gratitude by acknowledging that without competition there would be no winners.

Of course for every winner there has to be, to be blunt, at least one loser.  Losing with dignity, congratulating your competition with sincerity despite disappointment requires strength, courage, and a whole lot of class.  Committing to learn from the loss in order to increase the odds of a different outcome next time demands determination, devotion and tenacity, perhaps the real description of a “winner.”

Maybe you are somewhere in the middle, no longer a rookie but not yet in the winner’s circle.  If you are working hard but not where you want to be, focus on what you’ve done well so you can do it more, and learn from your mistakes so you can do better.  Too often people get so hung up on what isn’t going well that they forget to pay attention to what is.  Knowing the difference is a smart advantage.

If you are new to your sport, full of enthusiasm and ambition, work diligently to educate yourself.  Watch everyone around you knowing that teachers come in many forms, and we can learn from them all.  Jump in sooner than later.  You will make mistakes and you will feel foolish, just like everyone else when they started—or maybe well after they started.

Regardless of what sport you are in or where you are in it, enjoy meeting people who share your interests and your passions.  What a perfect way to make new friends, learn from each other, celebrate your successes and lament your losses.  Winning may be more fun than losing, but winning with friends cheering you on is the best fun of all.

Excerpt from Reinventing Normal:  How Choice and Change Shape Our Lives, Copyright 2013

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