Respect has Immeasurable Effects

By Nick Salen, USA Field Hockey's Senior Public Relations and Communications Coordinator | Nov. 08, 2019, 10:54 a.m. (ET)
Respect is one of the most important and necessary aspects of sports. In fact, it’s just as important as every stick skill, conditioning run and knowledge of the game and develops just as frequently. It’s why you see it in every Code of Conduct at USA Field Hockey events and why it is heavily discussed on all levels. No matter what your individual role may be in field hockey, the concept remains the same - Respect equals sportsmanship. Sportsmanship equals success.

By definition, respect is the sense of worth or excellence of a person, personal quality, ability or life. It demonstrates humility, empathy and compassion. It’s impossible to be successful without it, whether as an athlete, official, coach or spectator, but while it’s easily found in sports, respect can just as effortlessly be cast aside in the heat of competition. Everybody who steps on to the field on game days has earned the right to be there and deserves credit for the hard work put in to making that a reality. As such, true sportsmanship dictates that each person, despite his/her role in the game, should be given an equal amount of respect from the opening whistle to final buzzer.

An athlete’s talent only goes so far. Respect is not only the glue that keeps teammates close together, it’s also what helps develop chemistry, teamwork and trust. Combined, this helps everyone achieve the common goal of progressing their potential at each practice, training session and beyond. Individually, it teaches one to take both advice and constructive criticism from teammates and coaches alike. As a result, a respectful athlete will not ridicule someone that wears the same jersey for wrongdoing. They also will not find a personal excuse to give if something goes awry. Instead, he/she takes ownership of any missteps and uses it as a moment to learn. A respectful athlete also learns to disregard personal success in favor of supporting the accomplishment of those around them. In the end, it creates a sturdier glue that makes everyone better in the long run.

Your opponent is only an opponent on game day. Again, the foe worked just as hard as you to have the right to step on the field, so treat them as you would want to be. Make that handshake before and after the game truly mean something. Competition may be fierce against a worthy rival, but respect will teach you to win humbly and lose thoughtfully.

A winning record speaks loudly but is not the most important aspect. The respect of a coach begins through their actions toward athletes on the team. The coach shows up, day in and day out, no matter the circumstance to make every athlete on his/her team better.. They empower each player to do their best, offer encouragement when times seem rough and instill life-long lessons in the process. Respected coaches do not play favorites, nor do they single out players in resentment. They also openly address any concerns brought forward by the team and respects all points of view. Finally, a good coach does not stop being a coach off the field. It’s a 24/7 responsibility in good and difficult times, like a role model or parent, who treats everyone on the team like extended family.

During a match, just like the performance of players on the field, character matters most for a coach. Players, officials and fans are always watching, and reactions on game day can either reinforce or crumble a coach’s level of respect. Actions can speak louder than words, but both can determine how people perceive you.

While umpires and technical officials focus on the fair play aspect of the game between whistles, they must also keep an intricate balance between themselves, the athetes and coaching staffs. Neither side should question the integrity of the other, nor should fans along the sidelines. Should any party become tempered it can quickly become a no-win situation. Everyone must remember that officials do not blow the whistle with malicious intent or forcefully when a foul is made. Instead, all parties must recognize that each umpire is different in opinion and thus should respect that potentially different viewpoint. Just like everyone else, they play their role for the love of the game but also represent the integrity of the game.

At one time or another, the thrills of watching your child play are overpowered by raw emotions. When times are good, the sidelines are filled with claps and cheers. Other times it can be a mix of yells, screams or back-seat coaching. In any event, just like everyone else around the game, people are watching. While athletes can develop respect and sportsmanship as part of a team, it is also one of the most valuable things a spectator or parent can teach in the home. Being an ideal role model doesn’t stop on game days either. In fact, it is just as imperative to respect coaches and officials whether in agreement or not. Fellow fans and parents are there for the same reasons – to support their athlete and their team. No one is in the wrong for cheering on a good play but it can still be easy to let emotions be expressed that are out of check. Always remember to take time treat fellow bystanders how you would want your players to be perceived. When behaving positively, respect goes a long way.

Respect is a two-way street – do not expect those around you to give it unless you are prepared to positively express it back. In the heat of battle it can be easy to put it on the backseat, but is as necessary trait in all sports. Depending on which role you fall into, there are a number of ways to give and receive respect. We are all humans with emotions, but what matters most is that one cannot be successful without respect.