USA Softball News Respecting Your Oppo...

Respecting Your Opponent by Coach Candrea

Feb. 23, 2015, 10:34 a.m. (ET)

This year’s Super Bowl was a tremendous game to watch until the last play when both teams broke out into a fight and basically ruined one of our most widely viewed events of the year. What kind of message does that leave for all the young athletes in the world aspiring to compete in athletics? As parents and coaches, it is our responsibility to teach the value of fair conduct; respect for opponents, teammates and officials; and winning and losing graciously. These are skills that will be necessary for life! Sport idols perform touchdown dances, update Twitter feeds constantly, and are often caught behaving badly off the field. Young athletes connected with social media are engulfed by an athletics culture where civility, respect and general sportsmanship are hard to find.

Respecting your opponent is an important part of the game. If you think about it, it is the only time you are going to face someone who is going through exactly what you are going through. If you respect the game you play, then it only makes sense to respect the player with the skill to oppose you. When you compete, you’re expressing a lot of passion and emotion – some positive, some negative. Practicing good sportsmanship is a reminder that we are real people that are playing a game. Great coaches and players weave those elements together for success. After all, a worthy opponent is a gift that forces you to play the game at your highest levels! Winning is fun. It is often seen as a reward for our hard work, and it fills our emotional tank with great pride. It is always our obligation to do our best to win. Respecting your team and the game includes doing your best. However, if you were to make a list of team goals in youth/recreational sports, winning should always be below things like fun, learning the game, improving your skills etc. We must learn to win with humility because, like losing, we must also keep winning in perspective.

Winning doesn’t mean you were perfect; there are always areas we can improve. This does not mean we can’t celebrate with grace. We should keep in mind that our opponent is simultaneously facing disappointment. Since we all have experienced tough losses, it should be easy to have empathy for the losing team. However, striking a balance between sincerely enjoying your accomplishment, while not adding to your competitor’s dejection, can be extremely difficult. A good start is to acknowledge your opponents worthiness. Victory is cheapened when you dismiss your opponent’s worthiness.

Failures in sports, as in life, should not be debilitating, but a path to greater wisdom and a motivational tool to succeed. We should continuously strive to improve ourselves in life, just as in sports. We are never a finished product. Those who respect others, handle failure with grace, and manage success with humility, will not only be better teammates and employees, but prepared for the real world. They will also be viewed as leaders on their teams, in their professions and in their communities. Another life lesson that we can gain from participation in sport!

Until Next Month,

Coach Mike Candrea