Those that argue sports begin and end with winning misunderstand the very concept. Out of a large collection of competitors, only one individual or team can reign supreme and the rest are left to reflect over the journey that has taken them this far.
What many overlook are the triumphs found during the contest itself. Anyone can praise those lifting the winner’s medals at the end of the day, but sport is glittered with more rich tapestry than the final result. One of the key ingredients that make sport so special is the notion of sportsmanship.
Whether they are explicitly written into a game’s constitution or followed as a matter of course and principle, the practice of respecting an opponent before, during and after battle should always remain priority number one.
A brutal sport at times, the 15-a-side rugby code will see boots flying, crunching tackles made and blood pouring from players who give their all on the field.
Rucks and mauls can make the spectacle less than ideal for those that do not follow the game as a matter of course, but what separates rugby union from its close cousin rugby league goes beyond the number of men or women on the field.
With the inherent complexity of rules involved in the sport, the interpretation of the referee is paramount.
This incentive to treat them with respect must transition to the opposition team, speaking in a calm manner at all times and only engaging the official if the captain is given the opportunity. Examples of sportsmanship in rugby union can be found from the grassroots level all the way up to World Cup events.
Golf can be pigeonholed as a sport for the wealthy and privileged, and there is an element of truth to that stereotype. Yet the level of courtesy found on a golf course compares well against any other type of sporting arena on the planet.
For those casual golfers that attend the 18-hole course with friends or colleagues, scores are kept and honoured by those competing on the day as each individual must exemplify respect at all times.
No noise can be heard when a player is performing a swing, putts must be conceded where necessary, stepping onto the green can only be done when an opponent’s ball is not between yourself and the cup.
At the end of the day, most members enjoy a drink back and the clubhouse and do it all over again the next day or week. This spirit flows right up to the elite level. For the Masters tournament, the pinnacle for any golfer, the winner of the tournament is awarded the official green jacket to honour the occasion.
Such a moment is crystallised by the person handing the jacket over – that being the last victor. It is symbolic, but is a beautiful moment of sportsmanship.
Considered by many to be a barbaric encounter between two fighters, boxing does not enjoy the best of reputations by those inside and outside the sporting community. Yet the rules and respect demonstrated throughout the vast majority of bouts would suggest that the game is far healthier than many would perceive it to be.
Boxers must adhere to strict weigh-in regulations, wear the appropriate gloves, listen to the official and shake hands with their opponent and when the contest is over, the fighters usually share a moment of mutual admiration.
Amid all the trash talking and bravado that takes place, boxers do share a comradery for a pastime that is widely regarded as the toughest in the business.
The 11-a-side game of cricket embodies sportsmanship better than any of their compatriots. The activity can last up to 5 days at a time, but throughout you will discover players applauding an opponent for scoring a century, taking 5 wickets, passing a landmark or making their final appearance.
The umpires will regularly engage the players during the match with advice and amicable communication to ease tension and make the experience all the more enjoyable.
Given that the umpire’s decision is final, that permeates across all levels of the game. This makes the game less parochial and allows fans and players to appreciate the artistry of those taking part.
Classy moments by batters, bowlers, fielders and keepers are usually acknowledged by crowds of all persuasions to ensure that sportsmanship is always front and center of cricket.