Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 13. 1969.
Sportsmanship–what's in a word?
Sportsmanship–what's in a word?
One of the most misunderstood words in the English language is sportsmanship.
This word has been subject to different interpretations by many people. If one is to come to some understanding of what the term means, one must also consider in conjunction with it what is meant by "fair play".
The President of the International Amateur Athletic Association. Lord Burghley, competed in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics in the 400 metres hurdles.
He was excused attending the opening to avoid fatigue as his event followed the ceremony closely.
But when he saw his greatest rival standing ready to march in with his national team he rushed to take his place with the British contingent.
In 1952 during the Olympics in Stockholm, a Swiss rider, Roland Perret, took the 22nd fence neck and neck with a German who somehow was brushed off his horse.
The Swiss turned, and galloping after the riderless mount, returned it to his opponent, thus losing all hope of points from the important race.
It should not be deduced from these casually chosen examples that such sporting behaviour is confined to equestrians or the nobility.
Today, through the medium of sport a new nobility is being produced, a modern chivalry and nobility of character and personality.
The egalitarian terms "sportsman" is the best descriptive term of such an order of chivalry.
During a hockey match between India and Hong Kong in Djakarta, one of the Colony backs in a goal mouth mix-up, bustled an Indian forward headlong over the low wooden wall which surrounded the pitch.
This was treated as a huge joke by the spectators, many of whom were Indians.
They saw it for what it was, an accident caused by over-keeness and lack of skill.
Amusement was the only emotion displayed at this contremps which any fast and vigorous game produces, to be enjoyed and forgotten.
Spectators from all over the world are beginning to see such incidents in the same light. Remember, most worthwhile games will continually produce such occurences.
This is some indication that, through the medium of sport a valuable idea is spread: Regardless of background or race there are rules which should be observed. Outside and beyond the scope of the rules themselves, situations will occur which must be regarded as unimportant.
People who have worked with young children have recognised that this ability to accept rules, the decisions of an umpire or referee, is by no means innate, and that this ability appears late in our development.
Attitudes which help to produce this ability must be carefully incubated and are best developed over the long period dependence and systematic education. Supervised Sports activities are among our most effective social measures to produce such behaviour.
As Anna Trend stated: "The young child under the influence of its intinctive wishes is an uncivilised and primitive being. It is unclear and aggressive, selfish and inconsiderate, immodest and prying, insatiable and destructive . . . it has now power of self control".
This is where we all begin. All human progress is from this threshold.
Psychcologists are now clear that a mature personality is developed through stress and the impact of experience.
As is readily observable, sport can produce a wide area of impact and an increasingly difficulty of situation.
This we can and do control for the young, but international spirt is a test without such checks.
To return to the hockey match mentioned earlier.
The spectators and players treated the incident considered as an accident.
In psychological jargon, the situation was not charged, not loaded with emotion. The final result of the game was never in any doubt.
But change the scene: India v. Pakistan. Here the issue would be in doubt, where the spectators and especially the nationals of each country are sitting on the edge of their seats.
There is "needle" in the match. Of course this is a severe test of temper, training and sportsmanship.
The atmosphere must be experienced to be fully appreciated, for it is charged with human emotion.
For players and officials to carry such a game through successfully indicates that high levels of sportsmanship have been reached and under stress and tension these levels of moral development can be maintained.
As we know men can be forced by pressure of circumstances, by consciously induced fear, by reward and punishment to function on the level of expediency.
So too, today, cultural groups and nations can be forced into actions defensible only on grounds of self-interest, national alignment and in the last resort, military necessity.
We have come to acept this bitter experience by observation of international affairs, even by following international sport recently.
For criticis, however, to point to this retrogressive tendency as evidence that man should never try to rise above this level, indeed that he is incapable of behaviour other than that dictated by self interest, is as fruitless as pointing to the figure of a high jumper prostrate with the bar beside him as evidence that he will always fail in his efforts to clear the obstacle.
Today we are forewarned. We have seen groups and national prestige made the main objective in events which were designed to increase fellow feeling and improve international relations.
But sport survives. While this is so defeatism has no place in our thinking.
Indeed we are better equipped to deal with future problems.
Sport is one of the most potent media we possess for producing emotional and social maturation in an individual and amongst nations.
On an international level the Olympic Committee recognises and co-operates with only a few less national committees than there are members of the United Nations.
This represents a width of agreement without parallel on human progress and is one of man's finest achievements in his struggle for better understanding betwen peoples.