It seems redundant to say that sportsmanship is vital to sports — the two go hand in hand. From early ages, kids are taught to have sportsmanship, to respect the other team and to be an example for others.
These lessons should continue to be present as athletes grow older and, if they are lucky and talented enough, make it to the big stage. Yet it seems that time and time again a multi-million dollar athlete is in the news for spitting in another players face or saying to their opponent that they slept with their wife during a change over.
Though these actions are ridiculous by themselves, the examples they set for the millions of people who look up to those athletes is more troubling.
Not all athletes are unsportsmanlike: you have players like Roger Federer and Simone Biles, humble super-humans, who reached milestones others could only dream of while remaining respectful and kind. These athletes demonstrate class in victory and admiration in defeat — qualities that athletes should be held to, for those are the qualities that the kids who want to be them should emulate.
Young athletes shouldn’t try to act like Brazilian soccer player Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, who is famous for more than just his incredible talent as a soccer player.
He is also famous for grossly overstating fouls in soccer. In one particular incident during this summer’s World Cup, he was lightly stepped on by the opposing Mexican player and proceeded to writhe on the ground as if molten lava had been poured on his ankle.
The video of this incident went viral, with videos later surfacing of coaches jokingly training their players to “Neymar” and to act as if they had been brutally attacked on the soccer pitch.
Neymar is a prime example of a poor sportsmanlike figure: he doesn’t exhibit qualities of humility or class and instead flaunts his wealth and talent while also abusing holes in the rules to bend the game to his will.
That isn’t what young players should strive to be.
They should be shown more players like Luka Modric, a world class midfielder who came from humble beginnings.
Modric was given the award for player of the World Cup, yet during his speech he spoke of his teams excellent performance and how he played for his family and country.
He didn’t go at length of how his performance was one of the sole reasons his team even made it to the World Cup Final, but instead, set an example of what great players should do: shine the light on how it’s more than just you; it’s about the team.
Setting the right example for those who follow is a lesson that goes beyond sports: it’s a lesson we should all follow. Setting an example for the people who look up to us — whether its your four-year-old cousin or millions of fans — is more important than trophies or money.
Sportsmanship is what gets remembered beyond the accomplishments. It is what builds legacies and set examples.
Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers to live, was a kind and humble man who worked tirelessly to set an example for the next generation.
LeBron James, arguably the greatest basketball player ever, has said multiple times his goals are beyond just basketball. He wants to be both the best example and the best father possible.
Though it’s disheartening to see athletes displaying arrogance and vanity, there are many who outshine them, show how an athlete can be more than the sport they play and use the platform they have for the good of others.