Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Sportsmanship

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." - Philippians 2:3

"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him." - Proverbs 24:17-18

“When you get in the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.” – Paul “Bear” Bryant[1]

Unabashedly, I am a huge sports fan. Athletics has been a central part of my life and my growth as a person. In fact, I would attest that my athletic experiences were probably more formative than my experiences in the classroom.  To touch on but a few life lessons, I learned how to succeed, how to fail, how to lead, and how to follow. I learned the power of resiliency and the efficacy of assiduousness. Consequently, it is with no small degree of dismay that I have watched the worldwide decline of sportsmanship. I must admit, too, that I am fairly appalled at what passes for fandom in today’s culture. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but shouldn’t we be cheering for our team, instead of against our opponent? When did taunting and humiliating your opponent become an acceptable part of American sports? Why are Philadelphia Eagles patrons and Duke’s “Cameron Crazies” considered “good fans”? It seems to me that this strikes at the very heart of the concept of honor that we are trying to impart at HA.  I told the students when we had our Honor Code Ceremony this year, “Honor is not just about not lying, cheating, or stealing; it’s about how you treat others from whom you have nothing to gain.” I believe we can tell a lot about the culture of schools by how they treat their athletic opponents “from whom they have nothing to gain.”

I saw some post on Twitter regarding the football game this Thursday that got me thinking about sportsmanship. This is my first experience with the HA v. Providence football rivalry, but if it’s like any other rivalry, I imagine that things have gotten fairly heated, at times. Monday morning, I addressed our student body about sportsmanship, so I thought it would be a good time to share my thoughts on the matter with the HA community.

As we approach this football game, I hope that you will take the time to reflect on the hard work and dedication that the athletes from both teams have exhibited over the course of the season. The best way to honor our athletes is to exhibit good sportsmanship. Briefly, let me share with you some of my views that I have partially borrowed from Dr. James Garland, the former president of my undergraduate alma mater, Miami University (OH):

·      Good sports treat opposing teams and their fans with respect and courtesy. Good sports are humble when they win. They accept their victories with poise, without gloating or demeaning the other team. Good sports are not rude.

·      Good sports understand that losing is part of athletic competition. They accept their defeats gracefully, without pointing fingers or making excuses. They view their losses as opportunities for growth and further development of their skills.

·      Good sports keep their emotions in check. They understand that stress and pressure are part of athletics, and that the true test of character is when the disappointment, the bitterness, and the frustrations of a game are the greatest.

·      And finally, good sports keep a sense of perspective. They know that the other team is their opponent, not their enemy, and that the game is a contest, not a battle. They know that if they conduct themselves with dignity, they will always walk off the field as winners, no matter what the numbers on the scoreboard may show.

Houston Academy athletics has always epitomized a winning tradition, integrity, a commitment to the academic development of players, and good sportsmanship. I have been incredibly proud of the success of our teams this year, but I have been even more proud of the comportment and enthusiasm of our fans and athletes.  Win or lose, I know we will continue exhibiting good sportsmanship this Thursday and in the rest of our athletic contests.

Go Raiders!

[1] Also attributed to Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi, Woody Hayes, Joe Paterno, and Barry Sanders’ father, but we’re in Alabama!


  1. Right on time and target Dr. Phillips! Let's all remember this and Go Raiders!

  2. Thank you, Dr. Phillipps!