Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines sportsmanship as “conduct becoming to an individual involving fair and honest competition, courteous relations and graceful acceptance of results”. Sportsmanship starts with parents teaching their youth how to accept a win or a loss, although in the 4-H youth development program, even if the youth receives a red ribbon, nothing is lost as long as some basic knowledge and skills were gained. Too often in our society we focus on the tangible results of a ribbon or trophy and don’t think about the process that youth went through to achieve the end results and what was learned from that process.
I often use the example that as a youth, I’ll never forget receiving a red ribbon for a market heifer; I was frustrated, but will never forget my dad asking me, what the judge said in the comments. After we talked it over, I realized his reasoning and was able to understand the type of animal I should select for the following year. That was a lesson I’ll never forget. My dad and mom also told my sister and me that if we wanted a trophy that badly, instead of spending a large amount of money on an animal just to win or using unethical practices, they’d go out and buy us our own trophy. For these reasons, it is really rewarding to work with youth who are happy with any ribbon placing.
Three reasons adults and teen leaders should be concerned with developing sportsmanship are:
1. Youth programs are easier to conduct and are more positive experiences for everyone involved if good sportsmanship is demonstrated.
2. The development of sportsmanship is an important part of youth development. Youth and adults who develop and show good sportsmanship get along better, and are much more successful on a long-term basis in becoming self-directing, productive, contributing, competent, caring, capable adults, than are those whose behavior is un-sportsmanship-like.
3. Sportsmanship is one of the key elements of civilized society. Those who think of the “big picture” know the reasons for developing sportsmanship extend beyond an individual, a community, or a program. When societies allow sportsmanship to decline, their civilizations also decline.
As we get ready for another Fillmore County Fair, let’s be reminded that the end result is not the ribbon placing, but the skills that each youth learned!
Source: Kathryn J. Cox, Ohio Extension 4-H Specialist, Youth Development, Developing Sportsmanship- A Resource For Preparing Youth And Their Families For Participation in Competitive Programs and Events, 2006