How you respond after you win and lose can be most revealing about who you really are. I always look forward to viewing the exchanges between winners and losers after any athletic competition. How a person reacts to winning and losing a game is crucial to illuminating how he or she probably will act in other spaces outside of athletics. For parents of middle and high school student-athletes, help to support the efforts of coaches in imparting the importance of sportsmanship. As a former student-athlete and one who continues to participate in intramural athletics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I know how difficult it can be to lose. Frankly, I hate losing. This is why I compete so hard. I have learned, however, that anyone who defeats me deserves my wholehearted congratulations. It does not take much to shake the winners’ hands and tell the winners, “Good game.” There’s nothing like battling one another with such zeal and then evincing good sportsmanship after the game is over. While sports may not be valued by everyone like they should be, they do teach us the how vital sportsmanship is not only on the courts and fields of play but also in all areas of life.
Trash talking when you win a game is such an ugly phenomenon. You won—don’t gloat! When you lose, don’t try to start a fight. You just have to accept that you lost. Just because you won one game, no matter how prominent of a game it is, does not mean that you should ever feel it proper to rub the pain of defeat in your opponents’ faces.
As an athlete, I understand how in the heat of competition things can get rather intense. Athletes, however, have to learn that their intensity needs to be held in check. There’s never a need for actions on a court or field to turn into a violation of criminal law. Law enforcement should never have to step in to resolve a fight on a court or field. When this happens, this means that athletes are simply out of control. It’s always essential to be in control. That is, you should be in control of those things you can control. You can control your attitude and behavior.
Let’s really start applying the lessons of sportsmanship that we get from sports. Our interactions with one another should reflect that we understand and value sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is about giving credit where credit is due, and it’s about thanking those who you have defeated for being willing to express their congratulations to you. Know how to win and know how to lose. Let’s go a little further: Know how to win and lose gracefully.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison