Sportsmanship is defined in Webster's dictionary as: "taking a loss or defeat without complaint, or victory without gloating, and treating one's opponents with fairness, generosity, courtesy, etc."
Most of us know what it means to be a good sport: to be a good winner and a good loser. But let's face it, the more that's on the line, the harder it is to practice what we know is the right thing to do.
This is the time of the winter sports calendar when the principals of sportsmanship are most tested.
A teenager's season can come down to one game, one match, one quarter, one period, one play. or even one call.
That means this is also the toughest time of the year to be a high school sports official, coach, fan or parent. It's when we care so much, and every game or match means so much, that it's the hardest to be a good role model.
There's nothing more fun in high school sports than to be in the middle of a gymnasium rocking with rowdy fans, cheering for their high school basketball team or their favorite wrestler.
But how often does that fun atmosphere turn into an unfortunate spectacle? The fact is, for every team that has reason to celebrate, another is sent home in disappointment. Half of the crowd (and even more so at wrestling tournaments) goes home unhappy, angry, frustrated or all of the above.
The next logical step is to blame someone, right? Maybe a coach who didn't substitute the way they could have, or an official who supposedly missed a call. It's easy to take our frustrations out on the opposing fans or even the reporter covering a game. It's also easy to forget that those coaches and officials are just people: people who are probably there because they love sports, and care about kids.
Sometimes, like all of us, they make mistakes. It's hard to remember that those opposing fans are parents, grandparents and friends cheering for their team with the same love and support that we all have for our own kids, our own teams.
Maybe before we head to our next basketball game or wrestling match, we should take a minute to consider the people who make high school sports possible: coaches, officials, administrators and even the media: newspaper reporters, radio announcers and television crews who follow our local teams all season long. Theirs are not easy jobs, especially when emotions are running so high.
True sportsmanship requires consideration, compassion and respect. At the end of the day, sports are not only for our entertainment; hopefully they are a chance for student-athletes to learn lessons that will help them in real life. Let's hope we're teaching them the right ones.
Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.