National Sportsmanship Day is March 1, 2011. For the past two decades, USA TODAY and the Institute for International Sport have co-sponsored an annual essay contest in support of this sportsmanship initiative. Students from elementary school to college were invited to write essays of 500 words or fewer on the theme of their choosing.
There were 4 winners this year according to age group: College, High School, Middle School and Elementary School.
The one that impressed me the most was the Middle School winner.
Would our players write this about us?
Keith Mahler, eighth grade, Gulf Stream School, Gulf Streams, Fla.
Since the age of three, I have been playing sports and seen many displays of sportsmanship. For some however, sportsmanship is not just a concept, it is a way a of life, as exemplified by Coach Chuck.
When I was in fourth grade, I was introduced to the game of lacrosse. My older brother, who had been playing for his middle school team, convinced me to play. At first, the thought of running around in the hot sun coated in heavy pads while wearing a helmet seemed ludicrous; I wondered why people talked about it like it was such an amazing sport, but when the summer began I joined a travel team, I figured out why. I walked up to the tryout, not knowing what to expect, and immediately I was approached by a man who introduced himself as Coach Chuck.
The first thing that really made him stand out was that he was the only coach to greet me with a smile. I would later figure out that he had coached my brother in previous years, and being known for giving nicknames, gave him the nickname "Taco". By the end of the tryout, he had given me the nickname of "Burrito". There was something about him that indicated that he really cared. I ended up making the team that summer, excited to be able to play alongside many of my friends, but by the end of the summer, my friends would not be the main reason I loved lacrosse.
Practice after practice the other coaches would critique us on our game, whether it was shooting, dodging, ground balls, or defense, they always would think of some way to improve our game. Coach Chuck, being a standout player at The University of Maryland helped us with our game as well, but what was different about Coach Chuck was that he was the only coach concerned with our attitude.
If you missed a shot and a bad word slipped out, he would have a talk with you and explain that cussing is not appropriate; other coaches would just ignore it. If you checked someone illegally out of anger, he would explain that you should release your anger when you have the ball, running and shooting faster, instead of taking your anger out on someone else, effecting both you and the team.
Every day I would come to practice ready to soak up Coach Chuck's moral knowledge as well as his athletic skills like a sponge, and when the season ended, I could hardly contain myself for the following summer.
In fourteen years, I have seen varied ethics of sportsmanship, but none like that of Coach Chuck. In the future, I hope to coach and impart the same ideals bestowed upon me by Coach Chuck in my attempt to help motivate younger players to try their hardest, and to play with as much respect and honor for the game and themselves.