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The Benefit of Being a Good Sport

Sports and violence have been all over the news this year; leading fans and athletes alike to be confronted by it. In December, JDI’s quarterly Men’s Leadership Roundtable series focused on the field of sports as it relates to solutions to men’s violence. The robust conversation, led by Dr. Stephen W. Jefferson, a Lecturer at UMass Amherst delved into how sportsmanship and the development of positive character have has long been an over-arching goals in sports – youth sports in particular. Calling upon the voices of local men, Dr. Jefferson helped to piece together the connections between the character building qualities of team sports and community. Evidence and experience suggest that sport programs have the power to cultivate admirable characteristics like a collaborative spirit, strong communication, commitment, goal setting, and ethical decision-making skills.

“If sport is taught right it is character, it is education.” – Coach

Many of the attendees have children who play sports, have coached sports teams, or are former athletes themselves. They have witnessed how good sportspersonship lays the groundwork for moral character development and, by extension, serves as a platform toward a solution for violent behaviors. One participant noted that sports are one of the most influential ways for a person to develop good character because inherent in sports is the notion of selflessness and working together for a cause bigger than one’s individual needs. Creating an atmosphere for the cultivation of sportspersonship can help steer the message away from being one of celebrating, violent, distrustful and disrespectful conduct.

Participation in sports provides athletes the kind of social environment that contributes to good character and good citizenship. Repeated use of those skills allows an athlete to deal with life’s difficulties and struggles more effectively, both on and off the field. Where good character and good citizenship are, violence often isn’t.

Having developed these skills, athletes might also feel connected to larger societal issues that are not in tune with the lessons learned in sport. Injustices off the field may pose a direct conflict with the messages these athletes hold dear. Part of being a true team player involves using one’s voice to take a stand on important issues in one’s community.

Recognizing that athletes are often seen as leaders in their communities, JDI offers the Sports Team Toolkit in order to help schools build a social climate that promotes positive relationships. For these athletes, taking a stand in support of ending violence against women can inspire others in their schools and communities to do the same. Local athletes who would like to support JDI’s White Ribbon Day campaign can do so by learning more about the Sports Team Toolkit.