The Art of Sportsmanship

| March 25, 2015 | 0 Comments


I came across this article in my Facebook feed this morning, after the exciting win by the Black Caps last night against South Africa, in the Cricket World Cup, which takes them into the final on Sunday. And it made me smile, well the bit about the awesome display of mate-ship between NZ and SA, not so much the bit about Australian sledging.

“It was one of the great sporting images of the year. Match-winner Grant Elliott, a man whose place in New Zealand’s World Cup squad was initially questioned by many, helped lift an inconsolable Dale Steyn from the ground.

Steyn’s visible disappointment rippled throughout the Proteas camp. AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel and even David Miller – players known for their in-game aggression – were reduced to tears.

But it was Elliott’s own humility moments after sealing New Zealand’s first World Cup final appearance that will stick in the minds of many as one of the lasting memories of this global showpiece.

Sportsmanship, it’s something New Zealanders have taken in their stride in the cricketing world. For the most part, the Black Caps are seen by many as the real bastions of cricketing sportsmanship…

Offering words of consolation to your defeated opponent is common place, but to have a genuine sense of compassion is something that is difficult to find in other teams…

This team culture was obvious when there weren’t just limp handshakes between teams, but genuine illustrations of consolation and congratulation. Then, after the dust settled and the reality had set in, the two teams shared a drink together in the changing rooms.

Mateship – one of the great foundations of sport – was alive and well between these two sporting rivals once more.”

Credit: Matiu Workman: Semi-final sportsmanship a lesson for Australia - Radio Sport

Now you probably know I am Australian, and a long suffering one at that, in a house full of kiwi lads. Any opportunity to diss Australia in this house is taken, although I can usually get my 5 year old in on the ole chant – Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oi! Oi! Oi! – he can’t help himself.

The dissing is usually centred on sport, apart from the odd comment about the state of politics and the PM (I’m with them on that one!), and if the opportunity arises I give as good as I get, but in all honesty I’m not all that fussed, it’s all harmless fun and games right? The banter, the rub it in their faces if they lose mantra? Hasn’t it been about forever?


But in recent years seeing how my own children behave when they lose, or even when they think they might lose, the tears, the tantrums, the devastation, it has really made my husband and I think about how we react in the face of defeat AND winning.

It is no secret that kids learn from their environment, they mimic the behaviour of the people around them. So we have been trying our hardest to teach them that it’s all about how you play the game, that it’s about trying your best, that it is just as important to show empathy, and good sportsmanship, as it is to celebrate and congratulate a win.

But I despair. My 7 year old seems to be getting worse, he takes EVERYTHING so personally, and it is moving into ALL aspects of his life. He gets so over emotional by the smallest of things, turning them into the biggest of dramas. He is beginning to not even try things for fear that he will “be no good at it”. It is so bloody emotionally exhausting for all of us!


Last week I witnessed him having a meltdown directed at his teacher during a bull rush type game in the playground, in which he believed he was unfairly given out. I could see from a distance as I was walking into the school grounds what was happening, that he was getting more and more agitated, starting to lash out at the other kids, sounding off to his teacher (who is very intimidating I might add, and not one to take any crap). My first reaction was one of embarrassment… O.M.G. that is my kid! Then all I wanted to do was run up and give him a big hug as I could see he was emotionally out of control and couldn’t stop. Thankfully the bell went and I was able to do that. He was inconsolable at the unfairness of it all. All I could do was hold him and let him cry.

But I have noticed a pattern with him, if we are playing games together regularly, like every day, whether it be kicking around a ball, playing card or board games, the better he seems able to handle it. Plus both boys know that as soon as they get over emotional about a game and start lashing out, then the game stops (the very reason why computer games are banned!). Once everyone has calmed down we can play again… but that doesn’t happen at school, the emotions escalate or they are excluded.

I’m interested to talk to his teacher about it at Parent/Teacher interviews next week, as she has mentioned it before that she has noticed he struggles with disappointment. Here is hoping that he can learn through experience.

It certainly makes it understandable that, for young children, schools and sport teams have taken a lot of the competition out of the arena with things like “Have a Go” cricket and (in Australia) Auskick which promote development and participation over competition. But part of me wonders if it just sets them up for disappointment down the track, because the concept of losing is not there?

I really am on the fence on that one!

But I do believe that kids have learned behaviour, I see that in my 5 year old, sometimes it’s like looking in a mirror with some of the things that come out of his mouth during a tantrum!

So I hope that the sledging in the World Cup remains on the lighter side of fun banter, and does not become unsportsman-like. I’d love for the Aussie’s to show the true sense of mate-ship, and not live up to the expectations of most New Zealanders.

But it goes both ways too… not all Aussie’s are cheating under arm bowlers …

Remember the kids are watching.


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