In many ways, sportsmen and women are today's gladiators or warriors – the contests that are played out on the pitches and courts are the closest things we have to gladiatorial combat, or to fighting and waging wars. This is one of the only ways we can really test our mettle and our physical prowess in contest, and it's one of the only ways that nations still clash.
As such then, if sportsmen are like warriors, then sportsmanship or the 'sportsman spirit' could be considered the closest thing we have to a warrior's code – to bushido or to chivalry. If you develop good sportsmanship then this will mean that you relish the competition and take joy in the contest, but at the same time that you respect your opponent, that you win graciously and that you don’t cheat or stoop. Here we will look at how to instil the bushido of sports in yourself and to ensure that you shine on the pitch or the court.
Respect Your Opponent
If you have put time and effort into your training and you're serious about your pursuit then you will know the blood, sweat and tears that your opposition have put in as well. They will have had all of the same dedication to their game as you have and you will know precisely what they have been through. In this way you are brothers (or sisters) and the only difference between you is that you chose different teams. For this reason they deserve your respect no matter the outcome and a handshake at the end – and apart from anything else underestimating the opponent is a big mistake that can lead to serious consequences.
While you might be very competitive and while you might be very worked up about winning, it takes more than just great skills to become a legendary sportsman – you also need to be a great competitor and if you want the respect of your contemporaries then you need to stay classy regardless of the situation. If you throw a strop then you might win, but you'll lose the moral victory and you'll leave your competitor with a smug look on their faces regardless.
And remember this: despite what I said in the introduction it is only a game, and if you act like it's your whole world then it will lose you a lot of respect among your team mates.
Follow the Traditions
For these reasons there are many traditions in place in many sports to help us to retain good relationships with our opponents. This means things like shaking hands at the end of a tennis match, and this is what keeps sports civil and honourable rather than just being muddy skirmishes.
Being a good sport is strategic in terms of future games (because you won't have as many grudge matches or as many people gunning for you) and in terms of your career – no one wants to work with a bad sportsman and you won't get sponsors either.
You're Only Cheating Yourself...
It's a cliché sure, and it might bring back memories of your Mum telling you not to cheat on your SATs, but in the case of sports this really is true. In your SATs there is something to be gained from cheating, but when it comes to sports the whole point is the competition. You go head to head with someone so that you can test yourself and see how well you did, and if you cheat in any way then your victory will mean nothing. Even if you don't get caught cheating, you will always know yourself what happened – and ultimately you are the only person you have to answer to and impress.
Likewise you shouldn't take pleasure in your opponent's misfortune. If you really relish competition as a true sportsman, then you will want your opponents to be in the top condition so that you can test yourself. You are nothing without good competition – just look at the most legendary boxers and the ones that no one remembers – the good ones had good fights. Cheat, or laugh when your opponents have bad luck, and actually it will just look like cowardice.
You might have performed brilliantly on the pitch, but you are kidding yourself if you believe that your victory was entirely down to your own doing. If nothing else, the weather and luck will have played a role in the outcome, and if you're playing a team sport then you will really only have been one cog in a machine. Don't let your ego get the best of you and remember to point out these features. Bragging makes you seem less impressive, whereas modesty and honesty only makes you look more so. Let your actions, not your words, do all the talking.
Keep Your Emotions in Check
If you can't control your emotions you can lose sight of why you're doing what you're doing and you can end up getting too competitive or having a temper tantrum. Apart from anything else it can also put you at a disadvantage if you can't keep a level head, so make sure you know how to keep your emotions from distracting you.
Keep your eye on the ball!