Is rugby the best role model for competing? I believe so. I may be entirely biased since I played rugby (union) for more than fifteen years of my life, but I have established a personal credo that says that when I encounter another rugby player I am very probably going to be able to get along with that person under virtually any conditions. Despite the vast pressure, the demonstrations of team spirit and good sportsmanship post-match thus far at the RWC have been sterling examples for how sport should be played. Yes, there have been altercations and some nasty boots and tackles. That’s part of the war-like environment in the heat of the match. Yet, the vivid emotions after the match were testament to the intensity of the game. The upset favorites (All Blacks and Wallabies) totally in dismay. The underdog victors (France and England) in ecstasy. And yet, the teams shook hands with solid displays of good sportsmanship. No gloating by the winners. No sour grapes from the losers. Good natured winning and dignified (if still incredulous) losing.
Among the strong values in rugby is the lack of glorification around the person doing the scoring. There is no madman running around lifting up his shirt and kissing the sky to the adulation of the fans. Typically, there will be a pat on the back from the teammates and a “let’s get on with it” attitude. A score is normally the result of a team effort. The kicker, for his part, has an assignment.
Another favourite (for amateur rugby at least) is, of course, the famous 3rd half, down at the local pub–once we hit the legal drinking age, ahem–where both sides will meet for a drink’em up/patch’em up get-together.
In the face of the multiple sporting scandals around doping, gambling, rigging of results, is society losing touch with the purpose of sports? In my life, sports have always served as the three E’s: entertainment, exercise and education. For most sports these days, there is just too money circulating it would seem to key a “valuable” eye on the ball.
Rugby sportsmanship isn’t always perfect; nor does it have a monopoly on good sportsmanship. It exists fortunately everywhere. However, among the other team sports that show genuine good spirit after hard combat I would cite ice hockey and lacrosse. And I pay particular attention to these sports where, for the most part, there is not the same kind of money as in other professional sports. Playing rugby comes above all from an authentic passion for the game, not because of a dollar bill waved in the air (although it is of course a professional sport in the big rugby playing countries and the players receive adulation and achieve star status).
To allow a child to play a rough sport at school is often a challenge for the parent. That’s not essential, but the three sports of ice hockey, lacrosse and rugby have my vote for giving the best and most authentic values. Whatever the team sport, learning the camaraderie (as well as the leadership skills) in true team sports is an invaluable lesson for life and business.
I cite some interesting articles and blogs below that I picked up on good sportsmanship.
For better kids health:
How to teach your kids good sportsmanship
10 ways to be a good sport… [defunct]
From Touching Base magazine (www.slopitch.org)
Some blogs on the topic of good sportsmanship (there are many on the subject)
Vicky & Jen [defunct]
The Sporting Life [defunct]