Marks For Sports Essay Contest

2016 Essay Contest Winners

To me, the role of sportsmanship in youth sports is to teach aspiring athletes how to become better people through respect and encouragement. –Billy Lehrman, 10th grade winner.

We are happy to announce the winners of our second annual Youth Essay Contest on Sportsmanship. As was the case with our first contest, selecting the winners was difficult given the overwhelming response we had from student athletes across the city. We were grateful to have Modell’s Sporting Goods as sponsor of this year’s contest.

The quality of the essays was particularly evident. As one of our judges, Craig Carton of WFAN Radio, said, “reading so many columns of first-person experiences from young people recognizing the importance and benefits of being a good sport was inspiring.  The lessons these kids have learned on the court, the field, the track and, in some cases, the woods, has taught all of them the value of sportsmanship and great leadership.  In addition, great leadership from coaches and parents alike will serve them for a very long time.  If this is a small piece of what today’s kids are growing up to become, then the world will be in a very good place with these future leaders setting the pace for the next generation.”

Entrants were asked to submit a 400-500-word essay on “What role does sportsmanship play in youth sports.” They could have chosen to share a true story of sportsmanship (good or bad) that they observed or were a part of, but it was not required. The essays were separated into four categories: 6th & 7th grade, 8th & 9th grade, 10th grade and 11th & 12th grade. Winners in each category will receive awards valued at $500 (in case and Modell’s gift cards). Finalists will receive $100 prizes (cash and a Modell’s gift card).

Essays were judged on the basis of originality, emotional appeal, use of the theme, grammar and spelling and writing skills appropriate for the author’s grade. All essays were read anonymously and presented to the judges. Any names (such as of sports programs, schools or teams) that were mentioned in the text and which could have made them identifiable were removed. In such cases the text was re-inserted in the essays below.

In addition to Craig Carton, the judging panel included Olympic Silver Medalist in fencing, Tim Morehouse, and Kym Hampton, a former NY Liberty player and current Community Ambassador for the team.

Morehouse added, “I was extremely impressed with the maturity expressed by the athletes in their essays. Their dedication to the very essence and purity of sportsmanship will not only make them better people, but also undoubtedly makes youth sports better. I very much enjoyed being a part of this contest and feel confident that the future of sports is in good hands.”

For her part, Hampton noted that, “As a former professional basketball player, it was an honor to have the opportunity to read what these student athletes had to say about sportsmanship. Not only were the stories great, clearly each student understands the importance of sportsmanship on and off the playing field/court.”

We’d like to thank all the young kids across New York City who took the time out of what we know are very busy schedules to write essays. We were overwhelmed by the response and are thrilled that this contest has become an annual tradition for the NYC youth sports community. Congratulations to the winners, the finalists, the honorable mentions and all the student athletes who submitted essays.

Below are the winners. Click on the links to read their essays.

6th & 7th Grade

Winner:Brazen Van Horn, 6th grader – home schooled (Brooklyn)

Finalists:Joseph Boniello, 6th grader at St. Luke School (Queens) and Aidan Dolinsky, 7th grader at Hunter College High School (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention:Sophie Divilek, 7th grader at Riverdale Country School (Bronx) and Jamie Gall, 7th grader at Trevor Day

8th & 9th Grade

Winner: Baird Johnson, 8th grader at Robert Wagner Middle School (Manhattan)

Finalists:Thomas Knoff Jr., 9th grader at Xavier High School (Manhattan) and Anna Lanzman, 9th grader at Stuyvesant High School (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention: Jeremy Weine, 8th grader at MS 447 (Brooklyn) and Kathleen Staunton, 9th grader at the Marymount School of New York (Manhattan)

10th Grade

Winner:Billy Lehrman, 10th grader at Horace Mann (Bronx)

Finalists:Melina Asteriadis, 10th grader at Bronx HS of Science (Bronx) and Kelly Luo, 10th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention:Kenneth van der Lande, 10th grader at The Beacon School (Manhattan),Vanessa Miranda, 10th grader at the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology (Bronx), and Oscar Garcia, 10th grader at the Business of Sports School (Manhattan)

11th & 12th Grade

Winner:Emily Hirtle, 12th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

Finalists:Danielle Black, 11th grader at The Dalton School (Manhattan) and Adryan Barlia, 12th grader at The Beacon School (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention:Ava DeMayo, 11th grader at Frank McCourt HS (Manhattan)


THE ESSAYS

6th & 7th Grade Winner: Brazen Van Horn, 6th grader – home schooled (Brooklyn)

Having good sportsmanship as a kid on the field and having good sportsmanship as an adult in life are directly related. Whether it’s a game of soccer, or a promotion at work, sportsmanship is a very important aspect of life. The things you learn as a child are the building blocks of your life and when you learn good sportsmanship as a kid, it will stay with you throughout your life. Learning not only how to lose with respect, but also how to win gracefully, are skills that will not go unused.

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of sportsmanship is “fair play, respect for opponents, and polite behavior by someone who is competing in a sport or other competition.” While this technically is what sportsmanship is, it does not capture the fundamental essence of it. Sportsmanship is about so much more; making yourself, your team, and the other team feel good, and making sure people remember you as respectful and honest.

After every soccer game, both teams line up and high five each other saying “Good game.” One game after my team won, there was a kid that said bad game when they high fived each of my teammates. I will always remember this instance of bad sportsmanship. On the flip side, one game I was defending and the kid on the other team that was dribbling the ball fowled me. Even though he could have easily scored, he stopped, and ran away from the ball to the referee. He told the referee that he fowled me and even though I only got a free kick, I will always remember this as an act of good sportsmanship. These little acts of good and bad sportsmanship are remembered and can define the light in which people see you.

Sportsmanship will stay with you throughout your entire life. If you never learned how to have good sportsmanship as a kid then until you do, people will not want to work with you. You may get jealous when your co-worker gets promoted, or you may brag that you got promoted instead of your co-worker. Sportsmanship is an important skill, and when it is taught at a young age, it develops into something used in everyday life. In the end, sportsmanship can help you get jobs, keep jobs, make friends, and be respected. The truth is, teaching children sportsmanship at a young age does one important thing: it prepares them for life.

 

6th & 7th Grade Finalist: Joseph Boniello , 6th grader at St. Luke School (Queens)

Sportsmanship is the respect we show to one another while playing the sports that we love. The word sportsmanship almost sounds like the word friendship, but in sports. Just as we would treat our friends with kindness and respect that is how we should treat our teammates or those we are playing with or against. The sport that I play is bowling. I hope to one day be a professional bowler. It is very important to have good sportsmanship while bowling. I play competition bowling. I am versing every child I play. When another child does poorly I feel badly for them. I do not express any happy emotion even though their action may help me win the game. Instead, I actually feel badly for them, instead of happy for myself. I put myself in their shoes. How would I want them to treat me if that had happened to me? If someone that I am playing against gets a gutter ball, I am not going to smile or snicker because I would not want them to do that to me. I have witnessed many acts of good sportsmanship while playing bowling. When I have done poorly, or made a mistake, maybe only knocking down one pin, I have turned around and instead of seeing smiles on my opponents’ faces, I have seen painful expressions. It’s like they felt bad that that had happened to me. This makes me want to treat them with the same kindness.

I feel that the better my opponent plays, the better I play. I really want my opponent to do well. I enjoy a challenge. I also think that everyone plays better when everyone treats each other with respect. If someone acts happy when their opponent has a bad play (ex: a gutter ball) then when it is their turn, their opponent may be praying and wishing that they make an error. These kinds of wishes and hopes may make players nervous and then they don’t play as well. When my opponent has a good play, I cheer them on and then I try to do just as well as they did and I hope they are just as happy for me as I was for them.

Sports should be fun and positive. Sports are designed to keep our bodies and minds healthy. Negative thoughts are not good for our minds and therefore not good for our bodies or our sport. This is why I think that good sportsmanship is a very important part of sports.

 

6th & 7th Grade Finalist: Aidan Dolinsky, 7th grader at Hunter College High School (Manhattan)

This was fourth grade. Little league. Crazy parents and upset children were the standard. Mustangs: 7 wins, 2 ties, 1 loss. The Bears. Undefeated. Ruthless. Today was the championship, and I was on the Mustangs. Our parents had already talked to us about “not getting upset if we lose” and that playing a “fun game is better than winning”. We didn’t believe them. Secretly, our parents wanted to win more than we did. This was Randall’s Island.

We started off strong in the first inning. The opposing pitcher was the dreaded Nick G. He had a deadly arsenal of pitches for a fourth grader, and he hadn’t given up a run during the regular season. I was up to bat in the first inning. Runners on third and first, two-two count on me. Luckily, I happened to know that he usually throws a fastball up and in, and that’s exactly what he threw to me. I smashed it over the head of the third baseman for a RBI double. That’s when I realized that my team might have a chance of winning.

Then began the bottom of the first inning. Ryan was the starting pitcher for my team and he struck out the first two batters. The third batter popped up to the infield. By the top of the fourth, the score was 3-0 Mustangs. This is when we realized that the other team hadn’t had a hit yet. This really boosted our confidence. I then came in to pitch the fourth and fifth innings, striking out five, not allowing any hits. At the top of the sixth, the score was still 3-0. I quickly struck out the first two batters. Then, something interesting happened. Now, on most occasions, I would gladly have a weak batter face me any day of the week. This time the situation was different. I am not going to use his name for obvious reasons, but let’s just call him Tom. Tom had autism, and every team in the league knew this. Tom hadn’t gotten a hit the entire season, and I knew this had made him very upset.

Tom stepped up to the plate with only fear in his eyes. I immediately thought I would blow him away with three fastballs. Then I realized that I didn’t need to be congratulated on the no hitter. Tom needed to have that feeling of admiration, at least once in the season. The first pitch I threw him was a very slow fastball (a meatball, in baseball terms) right down the middle, just so that he could make contact. He blooped a hit into left field, his first and only hit of the season. Tom was so happy, celebrating on first base with the crowd screaming his name.

We still ended up winning the game, 3-0, throwing a one-hitter. What made me happy wasn’t winning the championship. It was seeing the look in Tom’s eyes. That was sportsmanship, and sportsmanship felt great.

 

6th & 7th Grade Honorable Mention: Sophie Divilek, 7th grader at Riverdale Country School (Bronx)

My feet slowly slushed as I walked through the mucky, damp, field. As I moved my feet I heard the rusty leaves cracking and scraping against the bottom of my worn out soles. The sound of me walking through leaves was quickly muffled out by the “booing” of the other team.  Before I could peer up at the negative comments directed towards us, I heard the booming voice of my coach calling me over.

Once I got to him, coach gave us our “words of encouragement,” which usually consisted of negative comments he was permitted to say. With a final, “win,” we headed to our possessions.

I made it to my spot on offense and tried to focus on my main task, “run and score,” as coach says. My vision quickly dazed off to the sky; through all the dark and giant masses of clouds, there would always be a small ray of sunshine reaching out.

All of a sudden I heard the sharp sound of the whistle. A soccer ball came flying at me, and with the cat-like reflexes I have, the soccer ball landed in my hands. I tried to drop it and make it seem as if I never caught it.  My teammates, people from the other team, and my coach taunted me.

I was pulled to the sideline, and my coach grabbed me and “whispered” into my ear. To this day I still hear the vibrations of his warning in my eardrum. “I’ve never expected to see a player as bad as you, ever; one more mistake and you’re off the team.  Better yet, you don’t score in this game, you’re done.”

I looked away so he wouldn’t see the water filling up in my eyes. I wiped away the tears before they could fall out on their own. I turned my head to see a girl from the other team starring at me.

Second half came and after the coach gave his usual speech, he pushed everyone back in, except me. I remained silent.

Five minutes left on the clock. I watched the game on the edge of my seat. I heard the piercing sound of the whistle and watched in astonishment. A red card was pulled from the referee’s pocket.  The referee gestured for coach to bring someone in.  Coach turned to me and hollered, “It’s now or never.”

The game started and five minutes were on the clock. Soon four. Then three.  I started to panic. The whistle blew. I watched as sub’s from the other team ran in. I turned to see my coach glaring at me.  I ran up to the goal and waited. Some girl from the other team passed me the ball and gestured with her head to put it in the goal.  I stared at her for a few confusing seconds. I kicked, then scored.  Everyone cheered for me, I looked at the girl and recognized her from the sideline. She nodded. I thanked her.

 

6th & 7th Grade Honorable Mention: Jamie Gall, 7th grader at Trevor Day (Manhattan)

My synchronized ice ­skating team steps on to the ice in the regional finals. Our music starts. I immediately fall into my smiling trance and skate in time with the music. The footwork is playing in my head telling me exactly what to do next. I pray that no one falls jeopardizing our chance to win. My team and I are in sync cruising across the ice in our line. We turn backward and get ready for our kick. The music cue sounds and we all lift our foot off the ice. One of my teammates kicks too high and falls to the ice. My heart pounds faster and faster as she struggles to get back into the program. I cannot let the fall get to me and neither can my teammates. We finish our program without any other flaws.

My friend who fell is crying and thinks she is the reason we won’t place. I put my arm around her and comfort her. Even though I feel disappointed and maybe even angry about the fall I know I need to comfort her because I know she feels worse than I do. I would want people to do the same for me.

Synchronized skating requires the ultimate sportsmanship as a team of 16 skaters must perform a 2 minute choreographed routine together. Everyone dresses in identical costumes. No one person can stand out as the star and there is no chance to recover from errors or take a teammate out of the competition midway through, if they’re having an off day. The team must compete as one and the closer they feel to each other the more in sync they’ll be and the better the team will perform. To me the role good sportsmanship plays in youth sports is not just being respectful of your opponents but supporting your teammates as well. Good sportsmanship creates an environment where everyone feels valued.

My teams’ good sportsmanship will leave my friend not feeling bad about herself or guilty she ruined everything. It will leave her feeling like no matter what happens she is a valuable member of the team. Without good sportsmanship our team would fall apart with everyone blaming each other. I know in five years I won’t remember my friend falling on the ice but I will remember placing 4th in the East Coast. I will remember standing on the podium at the medal ceremony and congratulating the other teams on their win against us. My experience with the role of sportsmanship shows, that good sportsmanship is not just about being respectful of your opponents but being supportive of your teammates.

 

8th & 9th Grade Winner:  Baird Johnson, 8th grader at Robert Wagner Middle School (Manhattan)

Into the woods. There is a saying, “the only thing more boring than track is cross country.” Nothing could be further from the truth, yet as an outsider looking in, I can almost imagine a spectator at a cross country meet believing this. After all, they don’t see what happens in the woods. But I do. Cross country is one of the few sports where there is virtually no attempt to entertain the spectators. It really boils down to athlete vs. athlete; it’s pure, and simple. Distance runners in particular have an excellent sense of sportsmanship and goodwill. We may not be as famous or flashy as sprinters (You know the name Usain Bolt, but have you ever heard of Bernard Lagat?), but the camaraderie we share is unparalleled among competitors. We often train together, we always feel the pain together; push each other and help each other. But, back to those woods… one of the downfalls of leading in a cross country race is you are expected to know the course and it is sometimes easy to get lost or accidentally cross over onto another trail. This is exactly what happened to me. I was only a few meters ahead and more than half way through the course when I took a wrong turn. The runner in second place noticed my mistake and instead of keeping quiet and running ahead to an unchallenged victory, actually called out to me and showed me the right course. Could there be a better example of sportsmanship? No one was watching; just two runners in the woods.

More often than not, cross country runners also participate in indoor and outdoor track seasons. Our unity comes with us. We collapse together at the finish line; in a group, almost a huddle. Barely able to talk, yet still commenting and congratulating each other through our gasps for air. Not an obligatory high five, an honest, heartfelt “we’re in this together and we made it” feeling. We take our time and we almost always leave the track together. We don’t typically have that jubilant, peacocky celebration you see with some other athletes. When it’s our day to finish first, we are quiet, understated. Sportsmanship shouldn’t be for show. It shouldn’t be trotted out on race day, when the cameras are rolling. It should be as much a part of you as your desire to run. It’s what you do when no one is looking.

My dad asked if the positions were reversed in the woods, what I would have done. I would like to think I would have done the same thing. I know if it happened today, I would absolutely do the same thing. Sportsmanship is contagious. My dad, coach and I made it a point to find the other coach and tell him what happened in those woods. And, if you are reading this and are curious as to which one of us won that day, I’m going to say we both did.

 

8th & 9th Grade Finalist: Thomas Knoff Jr. , 9th grader at Xavier High School (Manhattan)

Sportsmanship is earning the respect of, and giving the same to your opponent regardless of how hard the competition may be. One learns to play hard, but if your opponent stumbles and falls you reach out with your hand and help them in a gesture of humanity. This philosophy magnifies your sense of self-worth and fairness.

Sportsmanship teaches that while you are competing, you maintain your own dignity and compassion regardless of your opponent’s behavior and provide positive examples to all, kids, parents, coaches and referees. You play by the rules with strength in your heart and can go home afterwards with a feeling that you have done the right thing, which is empowering and increases your sense of morals between right and wrong. This is a lifelong skill that treats everyone fairly and also allows one to defend themselves if they believe they have been mistreated. Good sportsmanship is giving a teammate a high five after they missed an important free throw and building their self-respect without criticizing.

Good sportsmanship enriches your life so that you respect others including your parents, siblings, grandparents, opponents and authority figures. It is a way of life that makes you stronger to deal with inevitable adversity in life and focus on problem solutions rather than creating more strife and animosity. One of the best feelings is earning the respect of your teammates and when opposing players come over after the game and say it was pleasure playing with you. You know that you have done the right thing and competed with integrity. This is what youth sports should impart to all participants.

Good sportsmanship promotes a sense of justice in the world, which you can utilize in all aspects of life with dignity and fair play and a belief in oneself. I think the world would be a better place if everyone competes with good sportsmanship, integrity and respect for teammates and opponents. Everyone gains. Strong well-intentioned sportsmanship increases your self-worth, sense of fairness and the ability to get along with others.

 

8th & 9th Grade Finalist: Anna Lanzman, 9th grader at Stuyvesant High School (Manhattan)

Ever since I was a little girl, I was always involved in sports. At the age of three, I started out with rhythmic gymnastics and after doing it for nine years, switched to fencing two years ago. Right away, I loved it and knew it was the sport for me. In fencing, you fight your opponents while respecting them at the same time. You salute your opponent before each match, called a bout, and shake hands after. This respect was one of the many reasons fencing appealed to me so much. While I get to witness and exhibit respectful behavior at every competition, there was one in particular that really put my sportsmanship ability to the test.

It was an important tournament in Washington, D.C a few months ago. After pools, or the first part of the competition, finished, I sat waiting for the results to come out. I was angry at myself for losing three bouts, including one that I could’ve easily won. The results were finally posted and I saw only two defeats next to my name. At first I thought I was hallucinating. “Am I imagining this because that’s the result I so badly wanted?” And then it hit me. The referee made a mistake reporting the results, and I ran to the bout committee to explain. They announced for the other fencer to come and confirm. She didn’t realize that a mistake was made in my favor, and was extremely thankful that I pointed it out. The bout committee refused to change it at first, since the girl had signed her results and the rules are very strict about that. But I didn’t want to give up because I felt that it was wrong to continue with results I didn’t earn. I practically begged and finally they changed it. The new pool results were posted, and I was moved down from 12th place to 21st. This positioned me so much worse for the main part of the tournament, but nevertheless, I was happy. Everybody praised me and told my mom how proud she should be of me. The main part started, and I realized that my act of good sportsmanship gave me internal strength, I felt unstoppable: I was able to make last minute comebacks and win bouts against fencers who I’d normally never dream of beating.

As a result, I won a bronze medal at this large tournament, in the Cadet category, which is a year ahead of mine. I also reached a new milestone in my fencing by getting a C rating. From then on, the confidence that I got as a fencer, combined with the pride I felt for being a good sport led to many great achievements.

I will always remember this tournament because that’s when I learned the true meaning of good sportsmanship. To me it means putting honesty and doing the right thing ahead of your desire to win, because in the end that’s what leads to true victory.

 

8th & 9th Grade Honorable Mention:  Jeremy Weine, 8th grader at MS 447 (Brooklyn)

I play competitive baseball. This winter, to prepare for high school ball, I joined a more intense team—a tournament team. I was coming from a team where the goal was to have fun. The coaches were competitive, but sportsmanlike. The parents were interested in games, but were calm and composed. When I started playing with the tournament team, I realized that much adjusting was needed. At our first tournament, in Texas, the coaches stopped at nothing to win. The parents yelled and trash talked other players, as well as their own kids. The players danced and showboated. The dugout gave no support when our team was at bat. When we won the elimination games leading up to the championship, our coaches scolded us for our poor performances.

The championship game was heated. There was tension after three batters were hit—two on our team, one on theirs. When we took the field in the fifth inning, we were winning 7-1. The coaches of both teams had a meeting with the two umpires. Then, abruptly, the umpires called off the game and told the other team that they had won. The other team started clapping while we started laughing, as they seemed to be making a joke of their loss. However, our pitcher was not on the team’s roster and we were disqualified; the joke was on us. We left our positions in the field to go to the dugout and ask our coach what happened. When we got to the dugout, many players’ parents were already there, not to greet their kids, but to scream at the other team. “YOU SHOULD BE EMBARRASSED,” some yelled. In the end, the tournament director decided that we were the rightful winners of the whole tournament. That seemed to soothe everyone on the team’s anger, but not mine. I had just experienced the poorest display of sportsmanship of my life.

After this experience, I left the team, deciding that I did not want to spend time around the players, coaches, and parents at tournaments. I recommitted to my old team in search of what I left: waking up on a Sunday morning; driving to a baseball field in the Rockaways; talking with my coaches and playing baseball with my friends; cheering for my teammates when they’re up to bat; saying “nice hit” to opposing runners when I play first base and they jog in after a single; and driving home with a friend on the team with parents whom I like and can relate to.

From this, I’ve learned a lot about sportsmanship. I’ve learned that without it, baseball is just a bunch of guys with bats and balls battling against each other. In contrast, sportsmanship brings athletes together, as competitors, but also as fellow appreciators of the sport. That’s why we shake hands after games—to acknowledge that we are all sportsmen and that we enjoyed the time we were playing and are thankful for those who play with us.

 

8th & 9th Grade Honorable Mention: Kathleen Staunton, 9th grader at the Marymount School of New York (Manhattan)

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, Sportsmanship is “fair play, respect for opponents and polite behavior by someone who is competing in a sport or other competition.” To me, sportsmanship is a way of playing the sport you love while respecting, loving, and helping everyone around you.

In 2012 I played basketball for a team called Shooting Stars. I loved each and every player on that team, and although we had our doubts, we always knew that at the end of the day the only thing between winning and losing was helping each other out with constructive criticism. One week in April, I could no longer go to practice like usual. My brother was being driven to the hospital, and a few days later he would be dead after getting a cut playing basketball. This was and continues to be the hardest thing that ever happened in my life, he was my best friend and I miss him everyday. I spent two months in Ireland with my family and I was sure that I did not want to play basketball again; it would not be the same.

When I got back to New York, my parents asked me if I wanted to go back to practice, although I didn’t, my parents somehow convinced me. My first day back, I can remember clearly. I walked up the same six flights of stairs into the same gym that a few months ago, before my brother had passed away that I would. When I walked into the gym, I was swarmed with hugs and I almost fell over! It took me a while to get myself to put all of my heart into the games. I was only giving 50 percent of everything I had. My teammates and my coach would always cheer me up and push me harder and harder until they made me realize something very important. Instead of basketball being something that reminded me of the cut my brother got while playing, it was my escape. It was making me work out the pain and making sure that the only thing I was thinking of was how I can improve, not anything else.

Sportsmanship is not just about your opponents, it’s about kindness to everyone you play with, on and off the court. Without my team and their sportsmanship, I would not be who I am today. Sportsmanship ensures that no matter what you are going through, you will always have people playing with you who will help you play the sport that you love more than anything.

 

10th Grade Winner: Billy Lehrman, 10th grader at Horace Mann (Bronx)

I walked onto the field more nervous than I had ever been before. Today, after all, was my first tryout. I stepped out holding my dad’s hand in my right hand and my blue Sammy Sosa glove in my left. After the tryout, and dozens of drills, I was relieved to hear that I had made the team. The coach came over and congratulated me, but also shared one note of criticism that I wasn’t expecting: he called me out for being a bad sport. During the tryout, I had laughed when a kid dropped a fly ball and when another struck out. If I were to play for his team, my coach made me promise that I would follow his two rules: respecting and encouraging others. These two tenets of sportsmanship had never been a part of my arsenal until I had met my coach. Ever since then, I have embodied them, both on and off the field, and my life has been the better for doing so.

Coach quickly schooled me on his first rule of sportsmanship. Prior to our game, my coach pulled me aside and put out his hand, instructing me to shake it. Being a curious eight-year old, I asked why. He repeated, “Put out your hand,” so I did. He put his hand in mine and shook it weakly. Afterwards, we shook hands again, but this time, he grabbed my hand firmly and looked me in the eyes. He asked me what the difference was, and I noted that the second handshake made him seem more confident and strong. He told me the key to winning a game was in this handshake because it brings you face-to-face with your opponents while offering them enormous respect. In turn, your rivals will reciprocate. Without mutual respect, sports would be marred by poor behavior. Through a simple handshake, my coach taught me the value of respect.

During the game, I learned his second rule of sportsmanship. I fielded every ball that came my way, delivering good throws to the first baseman; however, he dropped ball after ball. I let my emotions get the best of me and called him out for dropping so many throws. He hung his head and trudged to the batter’s box. My coach saw this interaction and told me to look beyond the errors. Even if your teammate drops the ball, Coach countered, there will be another play later for him to make. “ If you encourage him to make the next play, instead of getting mad at him, he has a better chance at succeeding.” Focusing on only the negatives can discourage someone to give up entirely, while words of encouragement can drive someone to be the best they can be.

I still think back to how these valuable lessons of sportsmanship have shaped my life today. To me, the role of sportsmanship in youth sports is to teach aspiring athletes how to become better people through respect and encouragement.

 

10th Grade Finalist: Melina Asteriadis, 10th grader at The Bronx High School of Science (Bronx)

When my varsity soccer team lost a league game to our biggest rival, we came close to making a huge mistake. We almost took to social media to defame the other team, by getting involved in a post made by one of our opponents. I remember wanting to post a snarky comment, wanting to give in to my anger and frustration at losing, when I thought we deserved a win. But our team captain was adamantly opposed to this, telling us that it would just tarnish our reputation and take away from the true purpose of playing, without changing the game’s result. When we played our rivals again in the state championship final, this time we won. And I remember how good it felt­­ not just because we won the trophy, but because we proved our maturity and sportsmanship as a team, and in turn got to walk away from the season as the better team, both on and off the field.

To me, sportsmanship is shaking your rival’s hand after a tough game, even when all you want to do is send them a dirty look and ignore their outstretched hand. It is treating each teammate of yours with respect, even when you are competing for the same position. It is being mature enough to leave any enmity and personal feelings off the field. I think the true measure of an athlete­ and person’s­ greatness is not just their talent, but their ability to pursue their interests without tearing down those around them. Many say that without sportsmanship, a team cannot be successful, but I disagree with this. A team can be successful, winning all their games, doing well in tournaments, or having a high ranking, without having good sportsmanship. But success means nothing if the team dynamic is negative­­ if everyone is more concerned with being on the starting lineup than the actual experience of being on a team. Success, in the long run, is not what counts in youth sports. You won’t remember that one game you won, or your team’s exact ranking, but you will have the memory of being part of a team, and being surrounded by your teammates. Whether that memory is a happy one or a sad one is what counts. In this way, sportsmanship plays the biggest and most important role in youth sports. Being a “good sport” is what translates into your development as a person­­ not how many goals you scored, or how many minutes you played.

 

10th Grade Finalist: Kelly Luo, 10th grader at Stuyvesant High School (Manhattan)

Track is a non-contact sport. At least, that’s what people think. However, track athletes know this to be false. For example, in long-distance, people get pushy when they’re packed into one lane. Everyone bumps one another to try to secure first place. But this just comes with competition. So what really makes poor sportsmanship?

I was the anchor for my 4x400m relay. As the last one to run, it was my duty to finish well. There was a large gap between our school and the school ahead of us, so when I received the baton, I bolted, determined to cover the gap. I only had to run two laps. But within two laps, a lot can happen. I had almost closed the gap in a lap and was ready to pass the girl ahead of me. She was on the outside of the lane, so I thought, Since she’s on the outside, I can just pass her on the inside! I know I’m not supposed to, but there’s plenty of room for me to squeeze in! As I was overtaking her, she swerved into the inside of the lane. I could not avoid her, nor could I slow down. My spikes caught onto the back of her spikes and she stumbled, but didn’t fall. Despite my relief, I was not prepared for when she tripped a second time. Was that my fault? She slowed down, and I stepped on the back of her spikes again.

“YOU B****!” she yelled. Shocked, I went around her and ran for my life, partly because I wanted to finish the relay, and partly because I feared that the girl would curse at me again or catch up and step on my spikes, too. When I crossed the finish, I was breathless and my stomach spun in guilt. Running 400m makes your legs burn like hell afterwards, so I desperately wanted to collapse in exhaustion, but I knew I had to find the girl and apologize. What if she doesn’t forgive me? What if she wants revenge? I looked to my coach, who nodded her head towards the girl. I walked to her reluctantly, the both of us panting.

“I’m… so… sorry…” I said between breaths.

“It’s… okay…” she replied.

“I… didn’t… mean… to−”

“It’s okay… let’s… forget about it.” She extended her hand. I shook it.

“You were… faster than me anyways.” She gave me a smile.

I still regret ruining her relay, but I’m glad we made up. Her forgiveness was all I could ask for. The reason why track has no fouls or penalty shots is because everyone respects one another. Yes, we compete from different schools, but in the end, we support and cheer for each other. When we cross the finish line, we hug and congratulate other athletes from our race. That is what sportsmanship is about; in spite of the competitiveness, we regard each other with fairness and kindness.

 

10th Grade Honorable Mention: Kenneth van der Lande,10th grader at The Beacon School (Manhattan)

It was the Youth National soccer tournament, the highest stage my team had ever played in. Whether it was the nerves, or just carelessness, we came out completely flat; after giving the ball away, they counterattacked and their striker capped it off with a goal in the first five minutes of the game. While walking back, he gave me a look that said, “That’s right, how does that feel?” Five minutes later, another goal by the same striker. This time the whole team was laughing at us, as if we didn’t deserve to be on the same field as them. The rest of the game we battled, scoring a penalty before the first half ended, and the tying goal in the last five minutes. After celebrating, I jogged past the striker, intentionally bumping into him; “Yeah, you like that ****don’t you”. “What’d you say ***?” he responded. Our egos took over, and we had to be broken up by our teammates. All of who I was-swept away by the rage and aggression as I became more intent on obliterating that striker than winning the game.

The game went into overtime, and I stepped back on to the field, blind with rage. The whistle blew, and the battle commenced again with both teams playing back and forth beautiful soccer. Despite this, no one seemed to be able to get through for a scoring opportunity- until a ball was played overhead to the striker on the wing. Controlled by all the anger and frustration, I slid-he collapsed. Everyone knew, especially me, that was a red card. But the ref, maybe by a trick of the eye, thought it was a clean play. So, we played on, with my feuding enemy wallowing in pain on the grass. Five minutes later, we scored. After celebrating, I looked at the striker-his eyes, gray with dejection. His eyes, glossy with tears, mirrored off an image of myself that I cringed at. Is this what winning is?

I have played soccer for eleven years; as a toddler, going to Randall’s Island every Saturday and blasting shots at PUGG goals, in elementary school during recess, dribbling on the hot cement, and now, playing tournaments in Virginia or Washington. Over the many years and different places, the uncomparable rush of winning stays the same, and likewise with the pain of losing. But in my experiences as a competitor, I have come to realize that the great sensation of triumph is always dulled by the guilt of poor sportsmanship. When playing a sport simply to destroy and humiliate all the other teams in your path, you are destroying the moral integrity and core of what all sports essentially is; to have fun. As I mature, I continue to learn the essential skill of being a good teammate as well as opponent. Hopefully, this will help in upholding the principles of sportsmanship and making the game more enjoyable for all athletes such as myself.

 

10th Grade Honorable Mention: Vanessa Miranda, 10th grader at the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology (Bronx)

I was recently on a Junior Varsity girls basketball team. Our coach had never coached before and hadn’t played basketball in a while so she wasn’t the best. Because we were Junior Varsity we didn’t get much attention. We would practice in the “dungeon” which was actually the cafeteria hallway. Of course this wasn’t the best for us since we BARELY got the gym to practice, which means we were behind on shooting drills and practice play time. We would mostly practice dribbling drills, which we barely grasped onto. Also practicing in a cafeteria hallway wasn’t always motivating so we would slack off most of the time. Our first game we stood on zero for 3 periods. This was the beginning of the embarrassment. We lost every game and would get “smoked”. We would always get talked about in a bad way from other students and even the boys and girls varsity team. They never had this kind of record. The boys varsity team was praised. They got everything and anything and had the best and supporting coach. They won almost every game reaching 100+ points. The players on the varsity team were popular so things they said would get around easier or meant a lot more to people. They were the ones who would talk and spread rumors about us the most. This would cause others to talk and make fun of the JV girls basketball team. It did pressure us a lot and many people wanted to leave the team because of it, but we kept each other together. We would motivate face to face and over our JV basketball girls group chat on Facebook. We had faith in ourselves when nobody else did including our coach. We stopped teammates from getting in trouble, fights, quitting the team and more. We never doubted ourselves and we knew although we lost every game that we were a good team and we weren’t less than everybody else made us think. We understood why we lost but we always knew we would or could get better. We did not let down our teammates and would always clap hands with the other teams after our tough loses and say “Good game.” This shows that the role sportsmanship plays in youth sports is learning to be strong, fair, ethical, and to be an understanding team player when facing tough times while being on a sports team.

 

10th Grade Honorable Mention: Oscar Garcia, 10th grader at the Business of Sports School (Manhattan)

Whether it’s a small act or major act of positive influence, we’ve all seen it happen. Sportsmanship. As a soccer player, sportsmanship is a style, an attitude when playing the world’s most beautiful game. When scoring a goal, the sensation is unbelievable especially when that goal is a solo effort. All eyes and spotlight are on you. Crowds chanting your name and number, millions of people under one voice. That. That is my dream. To walk into the pitch and everyone is screaming Oscar, Oscar, Oscar! But not always has my vision been on that moment.

At a young age, having a ball on my feet was everything to me. Kicking the ball around, I pretended like I was the best. Meeting friends who played soccer was an exciting moment, because it was like staring at a mirror. Every one of us shared the same passion. But they were twice my age and bigger. For a six year old, it was hard to get a spot when playing a game. If I was chosen, I would play goalkeeper, but I wanted to touch the ball with my feet, not my hands. But there was a kid, who played splendid. Quick, agile, and had a magnificent kick. One day when choosing teams I was his first pick! Everyone said “Él?” Him? Even I thought it was a mistake. But his answer couldn’t have been stronger and clearer. “Si, a el.” (Yes I want him)- At the time, I didn’t know what Sportsmanship was, or the power of being a good sport. But he made me notice that being a good sport was more than just being kind. It was a choice. His great sportsmanship impacted me in such a way that game by game my confidence grew greater and bigger. “Sigue”, go on. “Si no marcas gol, mañana es otro día”. “Never give up on the ball, or then you fail”. Always, his advice was there, He was my big brother I never had. Unfortunately, his awful decisions off the pitch ended his career shorter than usual. What he managed to spread was inspiration to me and my heart. Good sportsmanship in youth sports is a choice. It is lending a caring hand to a rival that cannot pick himself up.

Good Sportsmanship is vital when playing any sport. It shows the true love for a game. It shows the side of human kindness. But not only should be a good sport on the field, but off the field because life is a game. He, who plays the best, succeeds. I mean after all, Isn’t it every athlete’s dream to hear their name being chanted by millions of fans? Being a good sport just like my friend, made me realize that no matter on or off the bench, there will always be a place for me and you on this Earth.

(*I never mention his name because he Rests In Peace)

 

11th & 12th Grade Winner: Emily Hirtle, 12th grader at Stuyvesant High School (Manhattan)

I can hardly hear the cheers around me over the sound of my heart beating and heavy breathing. My quads and calves engulf in flames as I sprint down the field, soccer ball at my feet. My aching muscles’ saving grace comes as I reach the 18. Now it’s just the goalie and me. I fake left, sending her diving, and softly fineness the ball into the back right corner of the net. As I’m mid-victory-jump I hear, “ref, sub,” followed by an unexpected, “Hirtle!”

Shocked, I jog off to meet my coach, his arms crossed as he looks down at me.

“What are you doing out there?”

“I’m a forward, isn’t it my job to score?”

“Not when we’re up 6-0. Come on, show some respect.”

Confused and angry, I retreat to the bench. What’s the point in being the soon-to-be 2010 champions if I can’t even score?

Fast-forward five years. I’ve long since left that team and it’s my senior year on varsity. We’ve won about 6 games since I was a freshman, and have almost 50 “goals against” in this season alone. I love soccer and always will, but it’s getting harder and harder to get psyched to play three times a week when we keep losing [insert large number]-0.

It’s one of the last games of the season, one of my last games ever, and it’s against the first place team. I don’t tie my ponytail extra tight or triple knot my cleats like I normally would for good luck – I don’t even bother to tuck in my jersey. If I don’t put my heart in it it won’t matter when we lose by nine points. When I don’t try, I almost can’t hear my opponents’ giggles and snarky comments with each goal.

In this season, I’ve finally come to understand why my coach subbed me in that game in 7th grade. He was teaching me how to play with class, which too often is lost in the hyper-competition of youth sports. I cherish my final year of soccer for what it was, but many of the games felt incomplete. They were missing sportsmanship, which is ultimately what makes soccer soccer.

Sportsmanship is about more than just following the rules of the game – it’s about maintaining the respect that gives soccer (and all sports) its integrity. When it is lost, the heart of the game is lost, leaving players apathetic. Even for the winning team, the thrill that comes with scoring a goal is lost when you’ve already made seven. Essentially, without sportsmanship there is no passion, and with no passion there are no sports. Although I wasn’t happy about it at the time, I’m thankful for the lesson that my old coach taught me. I was a forward for nine years, on both an undefeated, and a completely defeated team. The most important goals of my career were the ones I didn’t score.

 

11th & 12th Grade Finalist: Danielle Black, 11th grader at The Dalton School (Manhattan)

Sportsmanship is a relationship between participants in a sport. There is good sportsmanship and bad sportsmanship. When I play soccer I know I am not the only one on the field. Whether the person next to me is wearing the same team name as me on the front of their jersey or the name of the rival team, they are due a level of respect. To some, sportsmanship is a proper handshake after an intense game or the number of yellow cards acquired over a season; to me, sportsmanship is a mutual respect for the sport and its participants.

I put my heart and soul into almost everything I do. My aggressive and diligent nature allows me to be passionate about most of my endeavors, be they academic or athletic, yet sometimes my emotions can be an obstacle. I can clearly recall an example of this happening during my school year when I went into a soccer game really tired from staying up late doing homework the night before. I was relying on my mental strength out on the field, but my body was not up to its usual stamina. So, I was not surprised when my mental strength did not compensate for my physical weakness. However, I was disappointed by the fact that I allowed my frustration with myself to manifest into anger towards my teammates. Not only was I promoting the loss of the game, but I also contributed to a temporary loss of morale among my teammates. Every missed touch and incomplete pass made me more and more upset. Instead of being a leader, I was undermining the confidence of my team. Eventually, I was pulled off the field. “What’s up with you today?” my coach asked. My throat closed and I could not seem to form the words to respond. I trudged to the end of the bench, bent down to pick up my water bottle, and tears fell to the turf. After the storm had passed, I took a couple of minutes to collect myself and went back to my coach and said, “I’m ready to go back on.” My coach put me back and I picked my teammates up instead of putting them down. The focus among all of my teammates shifted and I ended up scoring two more goals in our first game of the season, which set us up for eventually going to the NYSAIS finals at the end of the season, for the first time in our team’s history!

In soccer and life, obstacles and setbacks can make us forget that everyone is out there to play the beautiful game and that one player with bad sportsmanship can ruin the opportunity for everyone to win. Emotions can be a driving force when doing something we are passionate about, but it takes strength not to let those emotions overshadow the responsibility of being a team player. I feel lucky to have learned this lesson in good sportsmanship relatively early in life.

 

11th & 12th Grade Finalist: Adryan Barlia, 12th grader at The Beacon School (Manhattan)

In my sophomore year of high school, I joined my school JV Baseball Team. Unlike that of the majority of the players in the team, that experience was my first. The responsibility, the commitment, and the trust that went into being part of a team was all new to me. It was in this team that I received my first sportsmanship award; “Beacon High School, Boys JV Baseball, Sportsmanship, 2013-2014” is what is engraved on a crystal trophy that sits on my bookshelf, even as I write this.

Sportsmanship in a team is often undervalued because of what youth sports of this generation focus on- just winning. In today’s day and age, youth sport members (regardless of what sport) are fixated on being the best player of the team and being able to outshine everyone else, in whichever means it takes to get there. Teams and individual team members are simply too aggressive in sports today and only focus on wanting to beat the other team or just perform to be able to get an Most Valuable Player award at the end of the season. Although there is nothing wrong in wanting to be the best or winning, when winning is all that is focused on, then it takes out from the experience of playing the sport in the first place. Sportsmanship is not all about winning, but about the good-natured experience of playing the sport.

Going back to my baseball team example, I can recount several instances of some great sportsmanship from my fellow team members. In a game we held against one of our rival high school teams, their team realized that one of their most crucial players did not have his proper equipment- his catcher’s mitt. A catcher’s mitt is very different from a regular baseball glove, and is very specific to baseball catchers, so no other member in their team was able to assist. From where I am sitting in our dugout, I saw my team’s catcher get up and run up to the opposing team’s dugout, with his mitt in hand. I then witness our catcher give his mitt up to the other team to use for the following inning. As our catcher came back, he did not make a scene of it or show it off to anyone in the team, but we all saw and we knew: that was true sportsmanship. Just focusing on the game as an experience for all, rather than an aggressive competition, shows a lot about a team member.

Youth sports today, suffer heavily from lacking sportsmanship. But what needs to be realized is that sportsmanship plays the biggest role in every sport, because without it, there would truly be no enjoyment in sports- no human element of caring. It is my own opinion that there should be no “Sportsmanship Award” for a member in a team- sportsmanship should be standard and expressed by every member in every sports team in youth sports today.

 

11th & 12th Grade Honorable Mention: Ava DeMayo, 11th grader at Frank McCourt HS (Manhattan)

As a young child I did not have much interaction with other kids in a competitive environment until I joined a swim team. I tried out for the Thunderbirds a local swim team at the JCC in Manhattan when I was about 6 years old. I did not know anything about swimming at a competitive level, I only knew that I had fun when I swam. The team was small and we all became a family. We were not only taught how to swim fast but how to respect our team, our coaches, and our competitors. As the years went by I was not only able to become a better swimmer but I learned what it means to be a good sport.

Sportsmanship is being able to identify that your opponent has put in time and effort into practicing. Hours after hours of building skill, technique, and strength is difficult. At every meet each swimmer on our team is expected to wait in the pool until everyone has finished the event, and to shake the hands of the swimmer on either side of your lane. Even after putting your all into your swimming, true sportsmanship is to realize that they did too. To acknowledge this by shaking their hands and congratulating them. At first I did not quite understand why we were being nice to the people who are trying to beat us.

After having the coaches repeat over and over that we had to stay in the pool and shake their hands, I now do it without thought. At the end of the meet after the announcement of the winners, each team cheers for the other team. At my first meet I was delighted that before we could leave we had to cheer. “Potato chip! Potato chip! Munch, munch, munch! Who do we think is a mighty fine bunch! Go Sharks!” We put in excitement and energy in showing the other team that we appreciate the competition. I realize that we are all here for the same reason. What is the point of bashing each other if we can push each other. Seeing another swimmer reach top speeds and beat the competition sets a fire inside me. I tell myself I can do that, I can be that fast. The competitive nature of playing a sport does not have to lead to disrespect but can lead to motivation.

Overall, sportsmanship is the ability to show your competitor and your own teammates that you acknowledge and appreciate the hard work they put in when completing the sport. Swimming has brought me a family, a stress­free environment, and a positive outlet for my energy. Creating a more welcoming environment allows for all participants to have fun and to realize that we are all here because we would not trade the pool for anything else. The most successful athletes are the ones who think about others alongside themselves.

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2015 Essay Contest Winners

“Sportsmanship is something that happens in the defining moments on the field, and in the less visible moments off the field. It is an all-empowering feeling that cannot be quantified by a final score or championship trophy.” – Dani Bergman Chudnow, winner of the 9th/10th grade category.

We are happy to announce the winners of our first-ever Youth Essay Contest on Sportsmanship. Selecting the winners was not easy as we received many quality entries from student athletes across the city. As one of our judges, Craig Carton of WFAN Radio, said, “All of the finalists are winners and show an amazing understanding and passion for Sportsmanship. All of these kids/young adults should be commended for their essays and they personally should be viewed as ambassadors for sportsmanship throughout NYC.”

Entrants were asked to submit a 400-500-word essay on “What sportsmanship means to me.”  They could have chosen to share a true story of good sportsmanship that they observed or were a part of, but it was not required. The essays were separated into four categories: 6th & 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th  & 10th grade and 11th & 12th grade. Winners in each category will be awarded $500 cash prizes. Finalists will receive $100 prizes.

Essays were judged on the basis of originality, emotional appeal, use of the theme, grammar and spelling and writing skills appropriate for the author’s age. Essays were presented anonymously to the judges. Any names (such as of sports programs, schools or teams) that were mentioned in the text and which could have made them identifiable were removed. In such cases the text was re-inserted in the essays linked to below.

In addition to Craig Carton, the judging panel included John Franco, a former NY Mets pitcher and a partner of NYC All Star Sports Group; Mike Puma, a sportswriter with the New York Post: Dr. Richard Park, the CEO of CityMD which was a Supporting Sponsor of this contest, and Luis Fernando Llosa, co-author of Beyond Winning, co-founder of www.WholeChildSports.com and a former Sports Illustrated associate editor. Click here to read more about the judges.

Franco added: “It was an honor to help judge New York Sports Connection’s First Annual Youth Essay Contest. The essays submitted by the finalists showed a level of maturity way beyond their years, and were a testament to the amazing work done by parents, coaches, and volunteers to ensure that our kids’ youth sports experience teaches real life lessons.”

We’d like to thank all the young kids across New York City who took the time out of what we know are very busy schedules to write essays describing what sportsmanship means to them. We were overwhelmed by the response and to the wonderful essays we received. Congratulations to the winners, the finalists, the honorable mentions and all the student athletes who submitted essays. It’s clear that sportsmanship is alive and well in NYC.

Below are the winners. Click on the links to read their essays.

 

6th & 7th Grade

Winner:Ginger Mullen, 6th grader at MS 447 (Brooklyn)

Finalists:Aliza Hacking, 6th grader at MS 54 (Delta) Booker T. Washington (Manhattan) and Mathias Zawoiski, 7th grader at PS/IS 187 (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention:Tessa Wayne, 7th grader at Columbia Grammar Prep School (Manhattan)

 

8th Grade

Winner: Mary Kate McGranahan, 8th grader at Saint Ignatius Loyola (Manhattan)

Finalists: Julianna Fabrizio, 8th grader at NYC Lab Middle School (Manhattan) and Isabel Stern, 8th grader at The Brearley School (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention: Julie Jastremski, 8th grader at Notre Dame Academy (Staten Island)andJordan Jaffe, 8th grader at East Side Middle School

 

9th & 10th Grade
Winner:
Dani Bergman Chudnow, 10th grader at Eleanor Roosevelt HS (Manhattan)

Finalists:Eyob Ford, 10th grader at Churchill School and Center (Manhattan) and Jennifer Yu, 9th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention:Eliza Paradise, 10th grader at Hunter College HS (Manhattan)

 

11th & 12th Grade

Winner: Sifan Lu, 12th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

Finalists: Connor Mulvena, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan) and Michael Bivona, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention:Paul Gargiulo, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan);Charlotte Youkilis, 11th grader at The Packer Collegiate Institute (Brooklyn); and Emily Hirtle, 11th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)


THE ESSAYS

6th & 7th Grade Winner: Ginger Mullen, 6th grader at MS 447 (Brooklyn)

What is sportsmanship? Is it a small smile towards a competitor on the starting line? Is it a thumbs-up after a great race? Is it a handshake that says a silent “good job”? Sportsmanship is all of these things and much more. To me, sportsmanship is respecting and supporting your teammates and opponents.  Sportsmanship greatly affects me in practice, during competitions and throughout my every day life.

Sportsmanship means countless things to me.  It strengthens my relationships with my teammates.  Sportsmanship inspires mutual respect between me and my competitors from other teams. For me, sportsmanship is wishing the best luck for my competitors, acknowledging a loss and supporting my teammates. Role models, and prior experience in sports directly affect sportsmanship. My track coach supports the idea of supporting everyone on the team. No matter if you are the fastest or slowest person, everyone plays an equal role in supporting one and other. Without sportsmanship, a team cannot be successful. Essentially, sportsmanship is the mortar that holds bricks together.  The bricks are the skill and love for the sport, but without the mortar you cannot have a team. A pile of bricks is useless, but a wall can have a great impact, just the way a team can.

Sportsmanship greatly affects my relationship with my teammates that are also my competitors.  This fall I joined the Prospect Park Youth Running Club and everyone was welcoming and kind. Because of sportsmanship, track is a very special sport. Track is not a typical team sport.  Essentially, you are running with your friends at practice and then you also race against them at meets. Sportsmanship plays a vital role in this process. During practice you are not racing to beat anyone, you are just hanging out with your friends and running together. But during the track meets you are competing with these people that you train with, and even more importantly, are friends with. Some might think that all I want to do is win or get a good time myself and not care about my teammate’s times. But really, I want my teammates to do well, because I see how hard they train and how much they deserve to do well. A good day isn’t when someone beats everyone else and only one person is happy, it’s when everyone does there best and gets PRs (personal records).  Then, it doesn’t matter who is first or second, it just matters that we all did the best we could.

I remember my last track meet.  My friend and I were talking in the car afterwards, discussing the amazing race we had that day because we both got PRs in the 3000-meter. I remember chasing her during the race, focusing on her red headband.  The urge to beat her was so real.  I crossed the finish line 7 seconds after her and we smiled and hugged.  Seconds later my other teammates shouted, “Did you hear us cheering?”  I smiled and nodded, “Of course I heard you.”

 

6th & 7th Grade Finalist: Aliza Hacking, 6th grader at MS 54 (Delta) Booker T. Washington (Manhattan)

Every day, people around the world play sports and games, and are constantly reminded to be good sports when playing. The question is, what effects does sportsmanship have? Personally, I believe that one’s personality in sports can be very reflective of his or her everyday personality, and it can also determine the amount of success he or she has. In other words, good sports tend to be kind and successful people whereas bad sports tend to be not as nice and not as successful.

Good sportsmanship can truly lead to a good life; for example, I play on a travel soccer team, and I have for a couple seasons now. Two seasons ago, my team won our division in terms of games won, and more importantly sportsmanship scores. The interesting thing about this experience was that, throughout the year, my team was lucky enough to have a team entirely filled with kind, intelligent, exuberant, wonderful girls. To me, this really shows why we won the sportsmanship award. The award reflected the personalities of the players on, and off the field. For example, there was a game that season where we played a team that also had great sportsmanship. The game was really fun because everybody’s attitude was great, and it made for a really happy game. Likewise, on my gymnastics team, this year we had not just good teammates, but supportive coaches. Because of the good example of sportsmanship my coach set, I have improved more than I thought possible from last year, and so has the rest of my team. Good sportsmanship can and will lead to success and kindness.

Similarly, bad sportsmanship can hurt the people that are being bad sports, and hurt others in the process. For example, I was playing in a soccer game one time when I spotted a diabolical smile from a girl on the opposing team. I predicted that she was going to be trouble, and she turned out to be even worse than I had thought. During the game, she fouled the girls on my team for no reason, and she ended up spraining my ankle. She also ended up hurting me mentally. She ended up being in my class at school, and it was the most painful experience of my life. She bullied me so that I came home crying every night, and she turned all my friends against me- it was a lonely, painful year. It just goes to show, what you do on the field can really reveal your personality.

Overall, sportsmanship can help or hurt people in an infinite number of ways, and, in a bad form, it IS a form of bullying. Therefore, it must be stopped. Whether on a soccer field, gymnastics mat, or in a part of life, sportsmanship has a true effect on the world. It can cause endless pain, or make the world a better place.

 

6th & 7th Grade Finalist: Mathias Zawoiski, 7th grader at PS/IS 187 (Manhattan)

I began lacrosse in fifth grade.  My brother and I wanted to play after we saw it on a TV series called, “Teen Wolf.”  The game was exciting and the players strong and swift.  We were awestruck watching a club team practice. The kids were having so much fun, even though the drills looked exhausting and hard. I loved speed of the game and have played now for three years.

At that first practice, it was easy to identify the star of the team.  He was confident, quick, aggressive and had the best lacrosse gear money can buy.  He came to practices and games styled in matching neon green and black gear and apparel from head to toe, while the rest of us proudly wore hand-me-downs donated to our inner city club.

The star started every game while we patiently waited our turn.  Coach wanted a guaranteed win, so why not keep the star in the game?  Our team was new, less than 6 months old. We won sometimes against seasoned opponents. Our team was happy. Our coach was happy.  Our team cheered, “We won!” but I never touched the ball, which was true of 90% of my teammates.  The star player scored the goals, so did we win?

My apprehensiveness solidified at our first lost.  The opposing team was not stronger or faster, but more skillful.  They identified our weakness: our star player. They double-triple-quadruple teamed him. He lost the ball because he was not use to passing it. About half way in the game, the star player was very upset.  He walked off the field during the game, yelled at the referee and yelled at his teammates. He made illegal body checks and even threw his stick on the ground at the sidelines.  The behavior became infectious. Other teammates started reacting the same way and it was embarrassing. I wish I could say this was the only time my team had temper tantrums but it was not.

Then, we got a new coach. He saw one of our infamous games and gave a speech describing what being a good teammate involves.  He explained the importance of supporting your comrades and sharing the same goals. He said selflessness and sportsmanship are the best qualities a teammate can have.

That speech meant a lot to me and to the team. We play differently now. Games are more fun because we are all getting touches on the balls; players are passing, even the star player, and if we win or lose it is not because of one person.  I learned that success in any sport is measured by how our team finishes, not the individual efforts.  Great teams normally have talented players, but when a team plays well and respects each other, every player is noticed and recognized.  This is a life lesson that I will never forget.

 

6th & 7th Grade Honorable Mention: Tessa Wayne, 7th grader at Columbia Grammar Prep School (Manhattan)

Sportsmanship is the most important characteristic of not only an athlete, but a person. At some point everyone has to compete against someone else and not just in sports. Although you are trying to do something better than someone else, competition is still supposed to be fun. I love to compete in sports and I am always trying to do my best to help my team.  Competition is only healthy when everyone plays fairly and poor sportsmanship should not ruin the experience for others. This is why sportsmanship is important to me.

Although I am in seventh grade, I made it onto the High School Varsity Basketball team at my school.  Being so young, every game we played was a new adventure for me, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Even though I was much younger than them, my teammates always showed good sportsmanship during our practices and scrimmages.  They did not inappropriately “go after” me just because I was the little one, and they did not avoid passing to me just to make me feel bad. I was treated like everyone else.  My teammates exhibiting this kind of sportsmanship made the many practices we had much more fun and welcoming.

When playing other schools, however, some teams did not exemplify good sportsmanship. Against one team there was a very tall girl who found me guarding her very annoying.  Given my height I was able to steal the ball and dribble low without her even noticing I was there. This got her very aggravated so she decided to take out her anger on me. While running up and down the court she would hold onto me when the referee was not looking, and when her team would try to inbound the ball, she would very strongly push me over, to get open and get the inbound. Finally, in the third quarter, I caught the ball outside the three-point line, and I saw a girl cutting to the basket. As I released the pass, all of a sudden I feel a sharp pain and I fell to the ground, gasping for air. She had come at me and struck me so hard it knocked the wind out of me.

This was one of the few games that I did not have fun at during the season. If she was just a good player and was not inappropriately physical, I would have enjoyed trying to defend a larger, stronger player.  This is why, I believe that sportsmanship is such an important characteristic. Without it, people could get hurt, and not enjoy themselves since competition is about having fun and getting better. I love to play competitive basketball and I have learned whether one is the strongest or the weakest player on the court, the most important attribute a player should have is sportsmanship.

 

8th Grade Winner: Mary Kate McGranahan, 8th grader at Saint Ignatius Loyola (Manhattan)

“Good game, good game, good game,” a team says as they walk down a line and high five their opponents. The score of the game has already been decided. The players are simply going through the routine, the motions. This seems like an unimportant moment. However, this moment can actually be one of the most pivotal moments in the game-day experience. This moment has defined sportsmanship for me over my many years of athletic experience.

I had a basketball game that went into overtime. My school and the opposing team were evenly matched. Both teams fought hard and gave everything they had, however when the buzzer rang my team had won by a single, two-point basket. When we went to shake hands with our opposing side I held out my hand to the girl in front of me and began to walk forward. I was met with a scrape. Instead of the customary high-five, the girl had stuck her nails out at an angle so that when my teammates and I went to high-five they scraped across our hands leaving some ugly scratches. Some of her teammates followed the suit, and to this day if the game is brought up in conversation no one comments on how the other team fought hard and what a great game it was, no one comments on their point guard’s amazing three-point shot. All my team remembers is the ungraciousness of their loss. I learned the lesson that sportsmanship should continue after the clock stops.

This lesson can be translated to the winning side also. Just as no one likes a sore loser, no one likes a bragging winner. It is important to show respect for the losing side. When a team wins a big game, they should line up to shake hands with the opposing team before celebrating. It is important to show that you respect the effort of the opposing team. It is also important not to gloat or show off to your opponent after a game. They fought hard too, and losing the fight as an experience every athlete has to go through. Respect the losing side just as you want to be respected when you lose.

Sportsmanship consists of a loser holding their head up high and showing respect for the winning side and the winner reflecting the same respect back on the losing side. Sportsmanship does not stop once you step off the field, or court, or track; in fact, that is when it is just beginning.

 

8th Grade Finalist: Julianna Fabrizio, 8th grader at NYC Lab Middle School (Manhattan)

When children are first taught to play sports, one of the first things they teach you is good sportsmanship. They tell you to pass the ball and always be nice to your teammates. But once you leave, sportsmanship is hardly ever mentioned. Coaches will tell you after a loss to leave those feelings on the court. However, a good amount of the time not only is the score left on the court, but so is the good sportsmanship that goes along with it. Unfortunately, at basketball practice, they don’t teach you sportsmanship off the court. It is often never referred to as sportsmanship. We call it many different things such as etiquette, hospitality, and friendliness, to name a few. Why is it that it’s very respectable to talk of sportsmanship on the basketball court, and expected of you, yet these unofficial rules don’t always carry through to our everyday lives? Sportsmanship is not just an unspoken rule of the basketball court, it is a lifestyle. But why is it that the same people I see shaking my hand and saying good game on Saturday are the same ones skipping me in line at a pizza parlor?

Sportsmanship is about more than just the game itself. It’s not about shaking hands afterwards, it’s about saying good game regardless of the score. It’s not just about saying sorry for knocking someone over, it’s about meaning it. It’s about developing friendships with your teammates (and opponents) off of the court. It’s about caring about others regardless of if they’re your teammate, opponent, or a complete stranger. It’s about supporting your teammates regardless of skill level, gender, or race. There’s a lot more to sportsmanship than empty words and actions. Sportsmanship is a degree of selflessness that is often difficult to achieve. But many don’t strive to achieve that. When we finish a practice at Steady Buckets, we always end it with “hard work.” But hard work doesn’t just apply to the workout skills. It applies to sportsmanship as well. You have to work hard at sportsmanship. It’s not something that’s learned overnight. You don’t wake up one morning and suddenly have good sportsmanship. You have to teach yourself to pick others up when they’re down. You have to teach yourself to care when others are hurt, or achieve a goal. You have to work hard to display sportsmanship both on and off the court. After all, sportsmanship surrounds us. It’s everywhere we look and everywhere we go.

 

8th Grade Finalist: Isabel Stern, 8th grader at The Brearley School (Manhattan)

I have found that as sports get more and more competitive, sportsmanship becomes more noticeable.  I have been playing travel soccer for Manhattan Soccer Club since I was eight years old and have played hundreds of games. I have experienced a great deal of good and bad sportsmanship. Sportsmanship to me is when the atmosphere on the field is supportive and positive.

When I first began to play soccer it was mostly recreational, far less intense. All the girls were nice, but there wasn’t necessarily anything for them to be mean about. However, as I entered and advanced through club level soccer the intensity increased and with it, an absence of good sportsmanship began to appear. I found myself being called inappropriate names on the field. It’s not that I felt sad or upset when people called me bad words, but rather disappointed.  This unpleasantness on the field detracts from the game I love, and when these nasty words are spoken, I notice it. When both my own team and the other team are saying mean things or yelling at one another or the ref, or in any other way disrupting the game in a negative aspect, I get distracted. This distraction causes me to lose focus on the game, and causes others to lose focus as well. These distractions can lead to injuries and a lower quality of soccer. The game then also becomes less about soccer and more about the tension on the field. You don’t walk away from a game that had poor sportsmanship and remember the soccer you played. Instead, you mostly remember the awful behavior on the field, and that is not something I want to remember.

Good sportsmanship on the other hand is what makes the game what it is. When there is a positive and respectful energy on the field everyone, from the players, to the coaches, to the parents, and to the refs all notice it. Good sportsmanship doesn’t necessarily mean you say sorry if you foul another player or compliment the other teams’ passes. I believe that what makes someone a good sport is if they are considerate of you, and allow the game to be played without any disruptions. When all the players know that everyone is out there to enjoy and play the game, it’s a lot more fun. The best form of good sportsmanship I have ever experienced was during a U12 game. It was a throw-in that was clearly ours, but the ref didn’t see it properly so gave it to the other team. However, a player on the other team realized that he had made the wrong call and told the ref that it was in fact our ball. This was good sportsmanship because it allowed the game to be played fairly.

Good sportsmanship is a sign that all the players on the field love the game and appreciate it enough to know not to blow the competitive aspect of the game out of proportion.

 

8th Grade Honorable Mention: Julie Jastremski, 8th grader at Notre Dame Academy (Staten Island)

“There is no “I” in team” is a phrase that all athletes have heard at least once in their lifetime. Actually, I am pretty sure it is a phrase that all athletes have heard at least a hundred times in their lifetime. While it might be a phrase that seems pretty straightforward, the message behind the saying is a lot deeper than people realize. Although athletes are taught the importance of sportsmanship from their coaches in order to help their team achieve success on the field, not many athletes realize that the lessons that sportsmanship teaches can be carried onto other parts of their lives.

Sportsmanship to me is something that I have learned throughout the course of my ten-year soccer career. I think that sportsmanship is something that all athletes must show in order to become the best they can possibly be, but not just on the field. I believe that sportsmanship is something that makes you a better person in every single part of your life. Sportsmanship is choosing to do the right thing even when you are tempted to do the wrong thing.

This type of mentality is something that can be used throughout your life, even when you aren’t playing in a game. Real life situations require for you to have sportsmanship in order to be the best version of yourself. Some of the environments where sportsmanship can be shown are at home, at school, with friends and even when you are talking to someone new.

At home we must have sportsmanship. It is something that is a key element to being happy and having balance in a relationship. Sportsmanship is represented at home when you don’t give back talk to your parents, siblings, or relatives. I know that I try my best to use the lessons of sportsmanship when my mom asks me to fold the laundry instead of one of my other siblings. A team player will rise to the task. And yes, folding laundry is a task!

At school sportsmanship is also important. At school we are surrounded in an environment where everyone wants the best for us. Our teachers, principals and other staff members try their best to give us a great education. Sportsmanship is shown in school when we respect the people trying their best to help benefit us and to have trust in our leaders.

I know that I would not be the daughter, sister, student, friend or athlete I am today if it wasn’t for the lessons that sportsmanship has taught me. I am grateful to have had the chance to play soccer my entire life and to learn how to become the best version of myself. Sportsmanship should be present in everyone’s lives today because it can make the world a better place. So whenever you hear that phrase “there’s no “I” in team” again, don’t forget to take it with you off the field too.

 

8th Grade Honorable Mention, Jordan Jaffe, 8th grader at East Side Middle School

Sportsmanship to me means keeping calm when things don’t go the right way with someone on your team. It means that when someone in basketball misses a shot, or someone in baseball strikes out, or someone in football drops the ball, we should try hard not to get mad and yell at our teammate. Rather, we should try to be kind and encouraging and support them going forward in the game. Yelling and screaming at someone can only make them feel worse and be more scared in the future to play the game. Encouragement makes our teammates better; yelling makes them worse.

One example of when this happened to me was when I was playing on my flag football team. I was playing quarterback and threw the ball to one of our weaker players, who was wide open in the middle of the field. The boy dropped the ball, and as a result we turned the ball over on downs. I was very upset knowing we had missed a prime opportunity to prolong our drive and potentially score on the drive. At first I was going to yell at my teammate. Instead, I stepped back and realized nothing good can happen from yelling at him. I decided to pat him on the back and tell him that he will catch the ball the next time.

In some cases I have been on the other end of the spectrum. Once, while playing on my baseball team I made a bad throw and cost our team a run. One of the older kids on the team yelled and me and made me feel very bad. I was upset and unwilling to focus on the field. That caused me to make even more mistakes and ultimately caused us to lose the game. I realized that what this boy had done was the wrong thing and that I needed to pick myself up and continue playing the game as hard as I could. I also swore that if that ever happened to someone on my team that I would never yell at them or upset them.

Both of these experiences have helped me gather a greater understanding of sportsmanship. It made me realize that there is no reason for me to get mad or upset at anyone on my team. I came to understand that we are just playing a game; we are not professionals and it really doesn’t matter if we win or lose. In the 30 years no one will remember who had the winning hit or who had the bad play on the field. But everyone will remember our character, which is reflected in the way we treat our teammates. Ultimately, sportsmanship is not only playing my best. It is also supporting my teammates, to bring out the best of those around me.

 

9th & 10th Grade Winner: Dani Bergman Chudnow, 10th grader at Eleanor Roosevelt HS (Manhattan)

Twenty years from now, when I have a career and family of my own, I probably will not remember exactly which soccer games I won or lost, what division titles we held, or the score from any one specific game. What I will remember are those moments when what happened on and around the soccer field inspired me and helped me to become a person who can take on any challenge that I face with both integrity and pride. Sportsmanship is something that happens in the defining moments on the field, and in the less visible moments off the field. It is an all-empowering feeling that cannot be quantified by a final score or championship trophy.

Sportsmanship takes on many forms and may not always look the same, but has a feeling that is unmistakable and completely recognizable. I will never forget as a little kid sitting in a circle after my first league soccer game when my coach asked each player to say something awesome or special about what another player contributed on the field. It may sound silly and even easy, but it wasn’t. “Not every play was great or even good,”  I remember hesitantly pointing out to my first coach. My coach wisely and with kindness responded, “Not all plays are praiseworthy, but all players are.”

That statement and belief changed the way I play and how I see the game and those who play. Every single person on a team wants to win. Some players are superstars- while other players may be good but somewhat less talented. Yet, everybody on a team has the ability to contribute in some meaningful way, whether that contribution is to the final score or to the morale or spirit of the team. I have learned that sportsmanship is the glue that bonds each individual member of a team together creating a force that causes great things to happen both on and off the field. Sportsmanship is what creates the memories that we will carry with us as we continue to chase our dreams in the future. But, more importantly, sportsmanship plants the seeds within us that will help us to always treat each other kindly and to see the unique and awesome contributions all people are able to make.  Sportsmanship instills within me the knowledge that there is more to life than the final score of any one game and sportsmanship enables us all to see greatness in others and within ourselves.

 

9th & 10th Grade Finalist:Eyob Ford, 10th grader at Churchill School and Center (Manhattan)

When I was 11 years old, I had the worst sportsmanship a player could have. I yelled at the players on other teams, and when I lost I would not shake the other team’s hands and would even spit on players. I used to get really upset and yell at the refs. Terrible things.

I used to think the game of soccer was just about winning and getting better. But now since I’ve grown up I’ve realized that soccer is much more than a sport. It’s a life lesson that teaches you the ups and downs, the hurdles and mounds you have to climb.

Soccer is very similar to life. When you get sent off in a football match, its like going to jail in the real world.  When you get sent off, you get kicked out of the game, you let your team down, you let your coach down, you let the fans down. You are not able to score goals or help your team win the game.  When you go to jail, you let your family down, your friends down, your teacher down, the people who look up to you down, and you are not able to get a job or earn money.  Both football and the real word connect to each other crucially.

Since I was 11 years old a lot has changed. Not just my size, but my personality.  If I hadn’t changed, I don’t think I would have gone as far as I have in the game and in life. I go to a good school, I have good grades, I have a good relationship with my family and friends and I play for a good football team. If I would have stayed the same as when I was 11 years old, I think I would have ended up in jail and in a gang.

To be positive in life and to have a good personality can make a world of difference to what you want to achieve, rather than having a negative attitude and a bad view of life.  The game of football is a beautiful game. And the beautiful game should be treasured. Life is also a beautiful game but in this game just like in a soccer game you have strategies and challenges. Playing fair in life and playing fair in football are important if you want to be happy and successful. That’s what good sportsmanship is to me.

 

9th & 10th Grade Finalist:Jennifer Yu, 9th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

Before the stresses of high school took over my life, I had a lot of time on my hands. I spent most of pre-high school years focused around tennis. I picked up my racquet at the age of three, began playing tournaments at ten, and was touring around the country in the summer by the time I was almost twelve. I visited many states in the South and the Midwest, gaining novel experiences along the way. Doing new things and visiting new places was fun and all, but when I checked into the hotel the day before my tournament, the goal only became one thing. To win.

Wanting to win is nothing to be ashamed of. The aggressive nature of competitive athletes, the energy that emanates from a desire to dominate and achieve, is one of the most beautiful aspects of sports. However, I took “stop at nothing” to a whole different level—I yelled, I cried, I argued.  A lot of it was due to my immaturity, but I never realized the true value of sportsmanship until one tournament…

I had just won a match where the opponent accused me of making bad calls on the lines. Before I won, though, she had been on some of her worst behavior—screaming, crying, even trying to make a bad call in retaliation. Walking off the court, I was already overly agitated, not to mention that my call was, in fact, correct. What really did me in, however, was when her parents started calling me a cheater. They decided to pick on a child, even though they had no basis for their accusations. Their words stung, so I went into the bathroom, and began to cry. I doubt the girl and her parents ever realized the pain their behavior inflicted on me. That’s what bad sportsmanship is like—bullying. Instead of growing resentful, I realized that my bad behavior may have left the same effect on other girls. My parents never got involved in my on-court conflicts; I was the sole blame.

It’s important to win in sports, to try your hardest, to succeed. But there’s a greater victory when you exhibit sportsmanship as you try to excel. Sportsmanship is not just something that is shown in athletics, but an attitude you can take with you off the court and into the world. Being courteous to your opponent not only shows respect for your opponent’s work and skill, but also honors the game. To be a bad sportsman, to bully others to fear you, is simply bringing shame and dishonor on your aspirations. I never behaved badly again after that incident. It does not mean I became a docile pup, allowing my opponents to kick me around. In fact, I became stronger and more confident in myself, because I knew could win, and still be able to act dignified on court. The beauty of the game lies not only in the heart of the players, but also in their attitudes.

 

9th & 10th Grade Honorable Mention:Eliza Paradise, 10th grader at Hunter College HS (Manhattan)

As a student athlete and someone who has been involved in sports for almost my entire life, the word sportsmanship has always played a large role in my life. It’s difficult to define because it’s not one concrete thing. Sportsmanship is an attitude– a way of looking at things and a way of treating others. Most importantly, it’s about preserving the integrity of the sport and having fun while doing so. My involvement in sports has shaped who I am and has taught me lessons that I carry with me in academics and in other areas of my life.

From an early age, I have heard the word sportsmanship and been taught what it means to “be a good sport.” Through each of the sports I’ve participated in over the years, my notion of sportsmanship has expanded. I believe that sportsmanship is more than just how you treat the people you are competing against. It’s also about how you conduct yourself on and off the field.

This year, I had an experience at a track meet that I will never forget which to me perfectly illustrates the notion of sportsmanship. I was lining up to get on the track and talking to a junior from a competing school named Lauren. Our conversation was interrupted when a meet official indicated for me to warm up on the track. Although I was a little puzzled, I jogged a lap around the track, followed by Lauren and some of her teammates. However, when I returned back to the start line, the meet official looked frustrated and explained that I wasn’t supposed to run all the way around, just jog a couple of feet ahead and come back. Lauren smiled comfortingly at me, telling me that she knew I wasn’t supposed to run all the way around but that she had told her teammates to follow me anyway. This action touched me, and I was struck by this friendly gesture that saved me from extreme embarrassment. To me, that was sportsmanship, because she was kind to me even though we were about to compete, saving me from running all the way around alone and looking foolish (I was too far to be called back once anyone realized I was going all the way around). This turned a potentially embarrassing experience into something laughable, reminding me that there’s room for fun even during intense competition. Receiving this support from a competitor truly exemplified the meaning of good sportsmanship.

With good sportsmanship, both competitors and teammates preserve the spirit and fun of the sport, allowing it to unite them. This means that they treat each other with respect, offer support to each other, and congratulate each other no matter who wins. It means that they play fairly, following the rules and remaining honest. This is because when players truly have good sportsmanship, there is no need to create a negative environment when, at the heart of it all, everyone’s there for one purpose: to have fun.

 

11th & 12th Grade Winner: Sifan Lu, 12th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

I stood on the diving block tracing my teammate’s path to the wall. When her feet were past my line of vision, I swung my arms around and propelled myself into the water. A jolt of coldness hit my body, followed by blindness, and I realized that my goggles had fallen to my neck.

I was nearly paralyzed with shock. I forced my eyes open and took a breath, choking on a mouthful of water. This was the 400-yard freestyle relay, the final event, the only relay in which my school held the top seed, and we were less than a second away from breaking our school record: this was the grand finale. If we won, our relay would move on to the state championships, but we had to beat our rivals who were close behind. I was the third leg of the relay and my teammates were screaming and cheering for me, but all I could hear were profanities reverberating through my mind. I willed myself forward, measuring the distance to the wall by looking for approaching flags every time I took a breath.

When I hit the final wall, I felt I had gulped down a gallon of chlorinated water, and my eyes were burning. Residual shock threatened to bubble up and burst into tears. I slumped down, knowing our rival team had passed us during my swim. With one final leg to go, our best swimmer flew through the water, catching up to the other team, but she was out-touched by 0.1 second. Our rivals jeered us and pounded the water. Mustering all my self-restraint, I held my hand out in congratulations. Knowing we could have won had I not lost control of my goggles, I struggled to keep my voice from becoming hysterical as I apologized to my relay-mates. I accepted their hugs of condolence as they told me it wasn’t my fault. Wretchedly knowing I had robbed these girls of the opportunity to swim at States, I nearly began sobbing. Later, I discovered I had actually swum one of my fastest times. This news gave me no comfort at the time, as I could only think that I had let my teammates down.

By the time I made my way through the warm-down pool to the bleachers, tears were wracking my body. Three of my teammates who had not been swimming jumped into the pool with their clothes on to hug and comfort me as the rest of the team huddled around us. They helped me out of the pool and as we all cried together, I realized this was no longer just my team; this was my second family. I had lost the race, but my team did not blame me and only strove to cheer me up. We endured the taunts of our rivals, and only reacted by shaking their hands in congratulations. Though the meet came to an unfortunate end, I witnessed true sportsmanship that day.

 

11th & 12th Grade Finalist: Connor Mulvena, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan)

Sportsmanship is a virtue that seems sometimes very foreign in contemporary American society. On the national level, people spend hundreds of dollars to go to professional sports games, and a majority of the country watches big sports games on national television. Some of the athletes idolized by the avid sports fans of America seem to show no sportsmanship whatsoever in their craft. They flip their bats after homeruns, dance after touchdowns, perform elaborate celebrations for the crowd after goals, and gesture to the crowd after dunks. People rarely see the popular players showing signs of good sportsmanship, and thus they do not value or realize its importance.

Like many Americans, at a young age I did not value sportsmanship. I was always told by my parents to be a good sport, and of course I listened, but I didn’t understand why that was important. In fact, I saw showing good sportsmanship as a weakness. It seemed to me that caring about the other team and being respectful were opposites to the competitive nature of sports. Ultimately, I equated sportsmanship with a lack of passion for the game. It was not until I was thirteen years old when I realized what sportsmanship truly meant. In the summer of 2011 I was playing in a baseball tournament at Diamond Nation in Flemington, New Jersey. My team was playing, a team from Maryland, the Yard Dogs, that we had never played before. In the third inning, a player on the Yard Dogs slid awkwardly into home plate in a bang-bang play and appeared to be hurt. We didn’t know if it was serious at first, but upon a closer look, we could all see that the player had clearly broken his leg. It was a gruesome sight. After the ambulance had taken the player to the nearby hospital, instead of continuing the game, all of the players and coaches from both teams went to the mound and kneeled in prayer together. We prayed that the player was ok and that he came back healthy. It was a simple but beautiful moment. It was at this moment that I realized what sportsmanship was. Sportsmanship was not a lack of passion for the game at all. It suddenly appeared to me that sportsmanship is maturity; it’s the ability to realize that baseball is merely a game in the scheme of things. The important thing is not that we win, but that we play the game for the reason we play all games: to have fun. We don’t play sports to boost our egos or prove how good we are at something. We play games to grow with others, challenge ourselves mentally and physically, and become better people through competition. Sportsmanship is the ability to recognize the reasons for which we play sports.

 

11th & 12th Grade Finalist: Michael Bivona, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan)

What is sportsmanship? The Merriam- Webster dictionary defines it as “fair play, respect for opponents, and polite behavior by someone who is competing in a sport or other competition.” However, this technical definition, fails to recognize the impact and overarching influence sportsmanship has on lives. Everyone has experienced sportsmanship at some point in his life. To me, sportsmanship is both the positive morals and virtues a competitor exemplifies out of respect for the love of competition. Sportsmanship defines an athlete as well as a competitor. How one acts can either justify his abilities or turn public opinion against him. Yet, exemplifying sportsmanship qualities goes further than popular public opinion to shape an athlete. A true athlete uses his gifts for a sport he loves, a sport he would be lost without. An athlete with a sense of sportsmanship owes it to his sport to respect the morals that come with it. In doing so, those virtues become part of his identity.

The best way I can outline sportsmanship is not by attributing a specific definition but rather describing an action that exemplifies it. No matter one’s definition of the word, he/she is able to recognize it when it happens right before his/her eyes. As a high school wrestler, I have competed in hundreds of tournaments. I have seen thousands of reactions to losses and defeats. At times, emotions get the best of a competitor and he/she reacts in anger, forfeiting the values and morals that wresting is built around. A wrestling match has so many factors: mental capability, physical strength, determination, etc. A wrestler steps onto the mat prepared to give everything he has within him to compete. Once he steps foot inside that circle he is alone and his own preparation and performance will define the course of the match. However, there is no better way to define a sportsman than that wrestler who gets up off that mat after that whistle blows for a loss, gasping for air, and walks to the center of the mat to shake both his opponents hand and the hand of the opposing coach. Wrestlers are taught this sign of respect from the very beginning and that one sign defines a wrestler. Accepting defeat, learning, growing from, and rising up again are what define a man of true sportsmanship.

A sportsman is a man who honors his love for a sport with consistent respect for teammates, coaches, opponents, fans, and family because without them his love would never exist. Lives are shaped by the virtues that define a sport. Those virtues stick with a person throughout life. For this reason, a competitor owes it to himself and the sport to be a sportsman. Try to always live your life as that wrestler who in defeat, gets up off that mat, suppresses all the rampant emotions running through his mind and shakes the hand of his opponent as sign of admiration for the love of his sport.

 

11th & 12th Grade Honorable Mention: Paul Gargiulo, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan)

Sportsmanship to me is engaging in fair play with both your teammates and your opponents. As part of my school’s rifle team, I have seen this demonstrated by my coach and by the team leaders. From watching and experiencing my leaders compete fairly, I have been provided with a model on how to lead by example among my peers. My most memorable experience came during my freshman year in my first competition as part of the team.

During my first competition as a freshman, we were competing against one of the top teams in our league.   After the other team shot, it became clear that although the competition was close, the other team would win. It was then revealed that a competitor on the other team made a mistake that would cause the other team to lose 200 points. This would cost the other team the match and allow our team to win. The other team’s coach asked our coach if his competitor could redo the two positions in which she made the error. Our coach then told our team captains that he would want them to make the decision. The captains went to discuss among themselves what to do. When they came back, they came to the conclusion that they would like to let the competitor on the other team redo her targets. They told us that even though she made a mistake that could have allowed us to win, it would be wrong of us to win like that under false pretenses. We all knew that the other team was slightly better than us, but we all knew that at the same time, we would want to win under our own merit, not due to a technical mishap.

This lesson has taught me that by treating our team and our teammates fairly, we can become better sportsmen, and in the end, this is more important than winning. Although our team captains made a choice that cost us the win, the choice they made allowed us to not win under false pretense and, ultimately, gave us the satisfaction that we competed fairly against a team we knew was better than us. Additionally, this gave us the motivation to work harder so that the following year, we would do better and beat the other team, which we did. The example our team leaders provided us allowed us to form a proper sportsmanship ethic. This sportsmanship ethic is important because when we become the team leaders in the future, we can model this behavior as our leaders did before us.

 

11th & 12th Grade Honorable Mention: Charlotte Youkilis, 11th grader at The Packer Collegiate Institute (Brooklyn)

Sportsmanship is reflected in my everyday life on so many levels, both on and off the field. Having the privilege to play sports for my entire life has taught me this, and, in turn, has shaped me into the person I am today. I have learned that playing a sport is about so much more than winning, and the experience of each game has given me more than I could ever imagine. Sportsmanship has taught me that numbers don’t define me; instead, I am defined by the way I act, the way I handle difficult situations, the way I help others. These are the things that allow me to set and achieve my goals in life.

You are never going to remember the number of games won or the number of games lost. Both in life and in sports, you will remember the journey; you will remember the encouragement that you got from your teammates in the bottom of the ninth when you stepped up to the plate, regardless of whether or not you scored the run. These are the things that transfer into life as you grow and learn. I take chances in life because I take chances on the field; I can handle loss and mistakes in life because I am forced to handle them on the field.

Most importantly, exemplifying good sportsmanship has allowed me to be a role model for my teammates. In a recent softball game, the opposing team had just enough players to put on the field, and one player was not wearing the proper uniform. The umpires and coaches had already discussed and agreed that, while the situation could technically call for their disqualification, we were all there to play the game. I noticed a lot of girls on my team, however, arguing that we shouldn’t let her play and that we should just take the win. As a captain, I stepped in and asked them if they would rather take the win by default or take the win because we played hard and deserved it. Then I told them that if the other team is the better team on the field today, then they deserve to win. My teammates realized that if they wanted to win, they needed to play for it, and that is exactly what they did – in the end, after a very close game, we won by one run.

The most important lesson that my teammates and I took out of that situation was that sportsmanship follows you off the field after every game – the other team thanked us for doing the right thing, and a few of my teammates came to me individually to thank me for encouraging them to earn their victory. Sportsmanship has taught me not just how to pick myself back up after I have fallen down, but also how to extend a hand to one in need – regardless of whose team they are playing for.

 

11th & 12th Grade Honorable Mention: Emily Hirtle, 11th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

As someone who has been an athlete practically since I could walk, I’ve experienced my share of both good and bad sportsmanship. From the beginning, sportsmanship has been important to me, but it has taken on a whole new meaning over the past few years.

Two years ago I started volunteering with special needs sports leagues, helping kids with various disabilities play soccer, basketball, and baseball. To these kids, sports are about much more than the score of the game. Sports are a way for them to succeed and feel good about themselves, but also to learn social skills. When they learn good sportsmanship, they learn to be considerate of other people, something that goes much farther than varsity athletes’ high fiving the other team at the end of a game.

One particular moment of good sportsmanship I witnessed was when the basketball team got tickets to a New York Liberty game, and was granted access to play on the court after the game. For all of the kids (as well as me), this was an incredibly exciting opportunity.

Once we got on the court, we split the kids up into two teams and started their game. Every one of them was playing as hard as he or she could – they all wanted to be able to say that they won a game at Madison Square Garden. Since we aim to take the emphasis off winning, we only loosely keep score, but it was clear that the game was very close. Towards the end of the game, one of the better players took the ball down the court and prepared to shoot, but he stopped. He walked over to another boy on his team, one who struggled a lot more than the other kids, and gave him the ball. This little boy was willing to give up a shot in very close game.

“Here,” he said, “you haven’t had a turn yet.”

When we have games in the league’s gym, it is common practice at the end of the game to give the kids who haven’t had a chance a few free shots, but usually it is adult-implemented and the kids are reluctant. This boy, however, did it on his own, and with pleasure. For any child, but especially one with a social disability, that is huge – it really shows consideration for someone else’s feelings, and an understanding that making someone else feel good is more important than winning.

The other boy took the shot, and missed, but his teammates got the ball to him again, the other team letting them do so and not guarding him, and he scored. The look on his face was priceless.

I had always thought that sportsmanship was something that stayed on the field, and was just about how you act towards the other team. These kids showed me that sportsmanship in fact comes from an internal, genuine consideration for others, something that extends beyond even the court at Madison Square Garden.

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