In 1940 – that would be 72 years ago – Emily Post published a book for parents titled CHILDREN ARE PEOPLE. I’ve taken some time recently to read through it and am amazed by the timelessness of her advice. It is in that spirit that I would like to share her thoughts on sportsmanship. Some things never change!
The Three Rules of Sportsmanship
Apart from following the rules of every game you play and apart from the question of whether you are a boy or a girl, the code of sportsmanship has three aspects:
- YOUR GENERAL BEHAVIOR: Whether you are playing a game or competing in a sport, you must never show bad temper. This is Rule No. I. If you can’t play games good humoredly, or take part in sports amiably, you shouldn’t go out for them. Play a game for love of the game! Go in for sports for the fun of the contest! Whether from cowardice or from temper, to throw down your club or racquet, is to throw down you chances of ever holding it again without penalty.
- WHEN YOU WIN: Be glad, of course, but show your gladness briefly. Take you own skill casually. This is the time to say you had luck, or a lucky break! – or perhaps that your opponent had bad luck; and remember, never forget to thank your partner [or teammates] for helping you win.
- WHEN YOU LOSE: Try to lose gallantly! Moreover, lose willingly, rather than win unfairly. Try to be fair enough to admire and to praise your opponent for his skill (not for his luck!) Never talk about your own bad luck.
If you are playing in a match, never complain that the referee or score-keeper was unfair. Never blame or criticize your partner, or someone on your team, for your loss.
When the game is over, the subject is finished, and the “why” you won or lost, or how you felt or played, is put out of mind.
Remember one thing! A gloating winner is far more detested than a bad loser. Even so, when you lose, don’t sulk or protest or long-windedly explain. If you are hurt, don’t nurse your bruises. Get up and courageously, good temperedly, get ready for the next encounter.
Emily Post. CHILDREN ARE PEOPLE. 1940:Funk and Wagnalls. pp. 357-358.
Her book is long since out of print, but Emily’s advice is still sound!