SportsSignup calls New York state home, and even though we are closer to Albany than New York City more than a few on our team are die-hard Yankee fans. As anyone who follows baseball knows, this is Derek Jeter’s last season in the MLB. After 20 years of playing shortstop for the Yankees, “The Captain” is calling it quits. In his 20 year career, Derek Jeter has earned 14 All-Star selections, five Gold Glove Awards, five Silver Slugger Awards, two Hank Aaron Awards, and a Roberto Clemente Award. Jeter is also the all-time MLB leader in hits by a shortstop, and the 28th player to reach 3,000 hits. It’s pretty much agreed by everyone in baseball that he is one of the best players of his generation. On top of that, he was also ranked as the most marketable player in baseball according to the 2003, 2005, and 2010 Sports Business Surveys and has done endorsement deals with Nike, Gatorade, Ford, Gillette, and other major brands.
But when you take his awards and accolades out of the mix, and there is no denying how utterly impressive that list is, Derek Jeter is also considered (by his opponents as well as teammates) as one of the most respectable and honorable players ever to play the game. There are a lot of things that go into being “a good sport;” honor, integrity, commitment, passion, and leadership are just a few qualities that embody sportsmanship. And while it’s very easy for a team and a coach to recognize those players internally, to have the entire league (including Red Sox fans) and the world of sports at large commend you for being one of the most professional players to ever step on the field, you know you’ve done something right.
So what does real sportsmanship look like? We feel it’s one of those things that are hard to define, but you certainly know it when you see it (and you can spot a poor sport a mile away!) But here are a few qualities that can help subtlety define sportsmanship:
A good leader isn’t necessarily someone who is good at telling other what to do (although that certainly helps), but rather one who is great at pulling the team together and getting everyone to work towards the same goal. They don’t ask their teammates to do anything they themselves wouldn’t do and they know how to pull the best out of each player to make for an even better team. Leaders are respected by their team because of their passion, knowledge, commitment, and spirit.
The people we consider “good sports” aren’t usually the ones that tell everyone how awesome they are. Braggarts get on peoples’ nerves very quickly and can cause a lot of friction within a team. Good sportsmanship means having a certain amount of humility. Yes, you might be the best player on the field but you aren’t the only one out there. Sure, you might be the league leader in X but you didn’t get their by yourself. Good sportsmanship means acknowledging the role others (parents, coaches, and players) have had in your success and respecting them for all they’ve given you.
No one likes to lose. It isn’t fun, especially at a highly competitive level where winning and losing really start to matter. Whether it’s getting totally blown out of the water or losing by one lowly point/goal it still hurts. But one of the most telling characteristics of a good sport is how they handle a loss. Do they throw a fit on the sidelines? Refuse to shake hands with the opponents? Start blaming their teammates? Or do they hold their head hi and walk away with some dignity? Sportsmanship is about being a good winner AND a good loser.