We often hear that “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” In a perfect world, that might be true. But we don’t live in a perfect world. And there’s no question that it feels a lot better at the end of a game to have won rather than lost.
But there’s a big difference between “winning” and “winning at any cost.”
My 12-year-old daughter has played softball, basketball, volleyball, and been a competitive swimmer for several years. And I’ve been involved in competitive sports for as long as I can remember, playing Little League, lettering in swimming and baseball in high school, competing in martial arts, and playing in adult softball leagues. Over that time, I’ve seen plenty of examples of good—and bad—sportsmanship.
In one basketball game this past year, my daughter’s 6th-grade team was getting slaughtered by a taller, faster, older, and more skilled team. We were down something like 20-4 at the half and there was clearly no way we were going to make it close. So I was surprised that at the start of the second half, the opposing coach continued to play his starters. His players kept stealing the ball, blocking shots, running plays, picking and rolling, and widening their lead. I honestly don’t remember what the score was at the end—and I honestly don’t care.