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Should Sportsmanship Be Part of the Role Of Coaching?

Should Sportsmanship Be Part of the Role Of Coaching?

This month we have a guest blog from Paul Smith, founder of The Great Sportsmanship Programme, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes sportsmanship and shares inspirational stories of great sportsmanship from across the world.

Would You display this above verse, in your office, on a notice board, a dressing room wall, or even online, on your club or school website, or facebook page?

Or would you see this verse as a distraction, diluting the focus on winning, particularly if you are coaching an individual or a team that is competing at the highest level?  Or perhaps, there is room for both – focussed achievement and sportsmanship values?  

Did Sports Stars Embrace Sportsmanship?    

Zatopek ‘the Czech locomotive’used to help competitors to reduce stress. He also once gave one of his Olympic gold medals away to Ron Clarke, the Australian whom he felt deserved one, back in 1966. That same year, Portugal’s Eusebio won the golden boots in the 1966 World Cup and two years later, in the European Cup Final, versus Manchester United’s busby babes, he stopped and applauded Man United’s goalkeeper, Alex Stepney after he saved an almost certain goal. I always remember that moment.  Brazil’s Pele  always played with a smile on his face (the iconic photograph of him embracing England’s captain, Bobby Moore is on the cover ofGreat Moments Of Sportsmanship). 

Do Sports Stars Embrace Sportsmanship?

Andy Murray showedintegrity and dignity in defeata year ago and a year later he won Wimbledon with great humility and friendship.  Today, Argentina’s Lionel Messi  (seeMessi’s Masterclass in Great Sportsmanship) and England’s  Ricky Lambert are living proof thatNice Guys Do Come First . Usain Bolt’s generosity of spirit, dignity and friendship lit up the Olympics. In fact, the humility of the three great Jamaicans sprinters (1,2,3 - gold, silver and bronze) and their post-race BBC interview being used to thank the people of Birmingham – was graciousness, friendliness and humility personified. There are so many great moments of sportsmanship occurring every day around the world – in top level sport and also, pleasingly, at local amateur level (one new sportsmanship story is published every day on the Great Sportsmanship facebook page).

Do You Believe In Olympism?

The Ancient Greeks wanted the Olympic Games (note: ‘Games’ not the Olympic Cup or Competition or League) to celebrate sport and culture (incidentally the last Olympic gold medal for poetry was won in London 1948 Olympic Games); and to develop man in both mind and body; and nurture friendship amongst young people from different nations. They insisted that all local wars and disputes were suspended for two weeks so that competitors could travel safely to, and from, the valley called Olympia. Hence the Olympic Games were born. And Danny Boyle’s wonderful London 2012 opening ceremony fulfilled the Olympism principles of sport and culture.  Incidentally, the atmosphere back stage, amongst the volunteers and the athletes was one of ‘infectious joy’ (see photo album). The 7 pillars of sportsmanship (which overlap with Olympism values) Honour, Honesty, Humility, Enjoyment, Friendship, Fair Play, Respect (download these posters: The 7 Pillars Of Sportsmanship; the Sportsmanship Code Of Conduct; the graphic verse).

So Can Sportsmanship Help or Hinder Sports Performance?

Alex Ferguson always told his players on big European nights and FA Cup Finals to ‘go out and enjoy themselves’. Express themselves.  There is no doubt that nerves and fear hinder sports people from optimum performance. So remembering to enjoy the moment is important. In fact Notre Dame University (who are partnering with The Great Sportsmanship Programme) are providing research that proves sportsmanship enhances performance by helping sports people get into ‘the zone’ and eliminating stress. Anyone interested contact me and I’ll share it.  In addition, there is evidence that poor sportsmanship reduces (a) an individual sports celebrities financial value  (b) a sports clubs revenue/fan base  (c) a sports sector credibility and consequential revenues.

So Should A Coach Coach Performance Or Sportsmanship, Or, Both?

Is it the coach’s responsibility to do both? What do you want to achieve with your trainee/s? Sporting excellence or can you give them more? Should they have a fully rounded perspective (including understanding the inner chimp)? Enjoy their sport? They most definitely should compete as hard as possible yet still adhere to the principles of sportsmanship.

What Will Your Legacy Be?

Delivering fully rounded individuals who learn life’s values through sport as well as fulfilling their sporting potential. What about growing the number of youths participating (and staying) in sport via the joy of sport ie sportsmanship.  Can you use sportsmanship to attract more young people into sport? Thereby fulfilling some of the Olympic legacy? Is this the responsibility of a coach?

Perhaps not, but how nice it would be to leave your own legacy of having increased the number of students participating in sports, as well as nurturing fully rounded individuals who have a zest for life.  

Send In Your Story

We invite you to send us your examples of sportsmanship stories. It can be at any sport at any level – major international events or a local running meet. Just send me the basic information and we’ll polish it up and credit you when we publish it.  We also invite you to become a Great Sportsmanship Coaching Ambassador which simply means we ask you to mention the programme whenever you can (including like and share online) and maybe introduce some students to it also. In return, we will send you a quarterly one page newsletter with links to the best sportsmanship stories. 

The Great Sportsmanship Programme

This flexible edutainment programme (blends education and entertainment) boosts interest in sport, tears down the fear factor, encourages friendship and respect. It is a Not-For-Profit organisation. Based on true, two minute inspirational stories about sportsmanship. We publish one new story every day on facebook and full stories on the blog/web site   This colourful video (4 mins) explains the programme. Contact me, Paul Smith, to see how The Great Sportsmanship Programme can be implemented in your school, club or youth centre – webinar, workshop, train the trainer. 

Paul R Smith

Founder, The Great Sportsmanship Programme

[email protected]  tel 020 8567 4659

w: www.GreatSportsmanship.org

f:  www.facebook.com/GreatSportsmanship

t:  www.twitter.com/GtSportsmanship

youtube: www.youtube.com/GreatSportsmanship



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