What Is Good Sportsmanship

Looking around, the world is more in need of good sportsmanship than ever before. The definition of sportsmanship has been buried by a culture of winning at all costs. This culture is not only about being poor losers, but poor winners as well. Unfortunately, adults – parents, coaches, and teachers – bear a huge amount of the responsibility for a toxic “winner” culture that doesn’t teach fair play and instead sets the onus for adult goals on the shoulders of kids. As kids look up to and love adults, and want their approval and love, they learn and model this behavior. Racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination have no place in sports. Nor does having a child in competition entitle anyone to display behavior that would be cause for criminal harassment or assault charges or a 72 hour psychiatric hold anywhere else.

Five Tenets of Taekwondo

Taekwondo teaches the foundation of good sportsmanship by teaching the five core tenets.

  • Courtesy: Politeness and respect for others, behaving in a well-mannered and civil fashion.
  • Integrity: Showing good character, honestly, prudence, and decency. Behaving ethically and morally.
  • Perseverance: Purposefully pursuing a course of action despite of difficulty, resistance, or discouragement.
  • Self-Control: Keeping ones emotions, desires, and impulses in check, and exercising control in their expression.
  • Indomitable Spirit: The spirit that can’t be broken or conquered, the strength of spirit that comes from the knowing one’s self.

Good athletes know that these five virtues are the foundations that real winners and real leaders need to stand on. Teaming up with Fair Play International, Classroom Champions has a series of videos hosted by Olympic athletes that speak to the virtues of fair play and good sportsmanship, and push back against a culture of winning before anything else. I would urge students, parents, and teachers to watch these videos together and discuss them, and how to deploy these lessons together in their daily lives. Also check out the videos and lessons in goal setting, community, teamwork, and leadership. You will find them not only inspiring, but actionable.

It takes one bad apple to make the whole barrel rot, or so the saying goes, so isn’t it a better idea to treat the apple before the rot can start? Sportsmanship starts with the adults modeling the behavior they want to see, and adults must be responsible for calling out other adults on their behavior. Young people must also be responsible for calling out their peers when their peers engage in unsportsmanlike conduct, and adults must support that. We as a community must all be the changes that we want to see, with no excuses or pointing fingers. We must show courtesy, integrity, perseverance, and self-control, and the indomitable spirits of true winners and leaders. Whether you practice Taekwondo or not, you are still a part of our federation, a member of our community, and we welcome you always to talk about these things with us and share your own stories.