Good Sports Events Require Good Sportsmanship

Idea Playbook

Good Sports Events Require Good Sportsmanship

By Paul Peavy

My family enjoys watching the crazy aerials and other sporting antics of the X Games. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the X Games features a bunch of “alternative” athletes, sponsored by energy drink makers, competing in alternative sports like jumping a 40-foot-high ramp on a bike, motorcycle, skateboard, snowboard or snowmobile. You probably won’t see more tattoos and piercing in a single sporting event than you will at the X Games, but you probably won’t see more sportsmanship either.

I’ve never seen anyone question an official’s decision at the X Games; even better, the competitors cheer for one another and celebrate after events. These guys seem like friends who train together and teach each other new tricks.

How can you get such good sportsmanship at your events? One suggestion would be to have a mixer or meeting for athletes and officials before the event. Arguments during competitions are less likely to break out between participants if they’ve had a chance to become friendly.

Another idea is to post signs about sportsmanship around your event. If you are hosting a youth event, you may want to add signs addressing parents’ behavior as well.

Another idea would be to have officials address the groups or teams, explaining that they are there to do more than just call ticky-tacky fouls; they are there to ensure that the games are played fairly and smoothly. A simple address like that could go a long way toward building camaraderie and putting everyone at ease.

Some organizers give a sportsmanship award, which can be a good idea if it isn’t automatically given to the runner-up. To give a sportsmanship award real value, have each team or individual vote for the person demonstrating the best sportsmanship before the end of the competition and present the award along with the other awards and/or prizes.

Another way to promote sportsmanship at events is, well, to promote it. Include it on flyers, event packets and registration materials, and add that a cool prize will be awarded for the best sportsmanship. Ask local businesses to donate items for the prize, such as a weekend getaway, spa package or gift card. A nice prize for sportsmanship tells athletes that you take sportsmanship seriously and gives them something to work toward.

One of the basic reasons for sports events is to provide kids, and adults as well, to compete in a fun setting. But a fun setting doesn’t necessarily mean that all participants will display good sportsmanship. And bad sportsmanship is one of the quickest ways to ruin a sports event. If someone demonstrates poor sportsmanship, it is important that officials, coaches or event planners take control immediately. Make it clear to all participants that you will not tolerate bad sportsmanship by them—and parents, coaches and spectators alike. This kind of swift and strong action sends the clear message that your sports event is about creating an atmosphere of not only good competition but also a good time.

Paul Peavy is a licensed psychotherapist, motivational speaker and former stand-up comic. He travels the Southeast participating in triathlons and other atheletic events with his wife, Sherrie.