Sportsmanship is not dead / by James Leath

Sports have a way of bringing out the best and worst emotions in us all. As youth athletes we dream of what it would be like to play on the collegiate and professional teams we love. Here is a 2-minute clip that is sure to bring a smile to your face, courtesy of The Ohio State University.

On Saturday I was at a track meet in Santa Maria. Hundreds of athletes from the Southern California area showed up ready to compete. Athletes I spoke with were eager to say how excited they were and how grateful they were to be there. There were 8 athletes under my supervision and when asked, each admitted they were nervous, but in a good way. At practice we would talk about nerves and how to accept them as part of the experience. It’s much easier to enjoy competition when you have prepared for it properly in practice and the athletes know what to expect.

My favorite moment of the day was when I watched an athlete stop in the middle of a 200-meter sprint to turn around, pick up the guy in the next lane who had fallen, then lightly jog with him as they crossed the finish line. I actually saw that happen twice. I also watched an athlete knowingly miss receiving her medal because she was holding the hand of her friend who had tripped during another race. It reminded me that there is still much good in sports, and that sportsmanship is still alive and well. These are things that are common-day occurrences with the Special Olympics community and I am honored to be one of their coaches.

A few years ago, a senior softball player from Western Oregon named Sara Tucholsy hit her first ever homerun of her career. It was in a playoff game of her final season as a collegiate athlete. In her excitement she missed tagging first base. As she turned around to return to the bag she tore her ACL and fell to the ground. If you have or know a softball player, watch this then send her this clip.

My last share for today is about a wrestler named Malik Stewart who lost the state championship wrestling title to an athlete who’s dad had cancer. After the match, Stewart walked over to his opponent’s dad and embraced him. (I am tearing up just thinking about it). Here is the short 2-minute video.

I hope these videos remind you of the importance of sports and the influence we have on athletes as coaches, parents, and fans. Here’s to athletes who honor sports by loving every aspect of the game, even their opponents. Let’s remember to encourage that kind of behavior in our players and in ourselves during competition and during life.