North Santa Rosa

Living With Purpose

    Seasonal sports come and go just like summer, fall, winter and spring. Heroes emerge from week to week as young men and women clash on the court, the gridiron, and the field. Each team enters the contest with the primary goal of winning. You practice for it, the fans in the stands expect it, and some pay big money to see their team bring home the victory.    As the season goes along, today’s question is not whether a game is well-played, or whether the team gives a good account of itself. Rather it is: “We didn’t win, so there must be something wrong with us!” And we look for someone to blame or we get resentful at the team that beat us.

    Let us keep something in mind: it is impossible for both teams to win the same game. Someone must lose—will lose. And here lies one of the greatest teaching tools of sports. A sports team’s loss is an opportunity to put Christianity into action. If you team wins, fine! But the next game, you might be on the short end of the score. How will you react then?

    Teams are composed of people; coached by people. They desire to win; they work to win. But many factors contribute to possible defeat. Too frequently, spectators, alumni, and managers are so “win-crazy” they become cruel, ruthless, hateful, disrespectful and out of line toward the players and the coaches.

    When thinking selfishly, they may demand a coach be fired or players benched because they fail to produce a winning team. Even when he or she has done their best with what they have—people join in the spirit of the Romans who sat in the amphitheater and yelled for the death of the fallen gladiator.

    Perhaps that’s extreme, but those basic urges are present in this modern world. You will never silence the name-calling, hissing, booing, and pressure placed on sport team managers or school administrators. So, the question that arises from all this: What has happened to sportsmanship?

    I can remember years ago when I was a nine-year-old playing little league baseball. My Dad was the head coach of our team and we were winning most of our games. Our last game of the season would determine who had the best league record.

    He told us, “Team, we will either win like champions or lose like champions. A true champion learns how to handle both after the game is over.”

    We felt good about ourselves and we played well as a team. Even being kids, prone to jealousy, we genuinely wanted one another to succeed and my Dad facilitated the attitude that we must encourage one another and play as a team, if we wanted to be our best. He taught us how to deal with a loss—how to correct our mistakes and look forward to playing them again to improve. Another aspect of coaching, which helped our team succeed, was the fact my Dad always managed to let everyone play. It was not “win at all costs”. His philosophy was if a kid showed up to practice every day, gave their best effort, he or she was always going to get in the game. The most minimally-skilled player was going to get the chance to play. Some coaches play their best players and their best players only. To me, that’s not a “team mentality”, but an “elite mentality”. Especially in youth sports.

    Youth are not professional athletes. The valuable opportunity to teach life skills in youth sports is often lost in the “winner take all” mindset. Coaches must keep winning in perspective and this must be taught to young players if they are to develop sportsmanship. My Dad is a competitor. I got an extra dose of it. And I believe my son got even more! But I was taught to take wins and losses in stride and to respect the other team and appreciate every player, regardless of skill level. Talent wins games, but teamwork and strategy win championships.

    We must value the fact that good sportsmanship is a product of good character; a mark of maturity. It is a player helping to his feet an opponent he has blocked out of play. It is refusing to “ride” or demean or cuss the referee who calls a close play against your team. It is spreading a good word of commendation for your team even when losing, because we know they are doing their best. These are the minimum tokens of good sportsmanship.

    Other tips that you can teach kids about good sportsmanship: have a positive attitude, give their best effort, shake hands with the other team before and after the game, support teammates by saying “good shot” or “good try” (never criticize a teammate for trying), accept calls and don’t argue with officials, treat the other team with respect and never tease or bully, follow the rules of the game, help another player up who has fallen, take pride in winning but don’t rub it in, accept a loss without whining or making excuses.

    Sportsmanship is Scriptural. 2 Timothy 2:5 says, “Athletes cannot win (become true champions) unless they follow the rules.” I believe the greatest lesson you can teach a young athlete is sportsmanship. For that not to be a priority of a youth sports coach, is to waste the opportunity to make the biggest, most effective influence on their young life. Good sportsmanship carries over into the workforce when they take their uniform off for the last time. The principle of sportsmanship goes with them. Give kids something positive that will help them their whole life, not just a winning record that lasts for a season. Many of them will come back to thank you years later.

• This bi-weekly column is written by Matthew Dobson. He’s a health educator for the State of Florida, U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain, and the Pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in the New York Community. His “Living With Purpose” Book series can be found and purchased on www. You can contact him by email:

Posted by on Sep 8 2019. Filed under Church News, Churches, Living With Purpose, Local, Top News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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