The Paw Print
Sportsmanship is defined as “fair and generous behavior or treatment of others, especially in a sports contest.” It is expected that all members of a sports team treat their competitors with respect. However, the spectators often forget that they need to exhibit sportsmanship as well. Exhibiting sportsmanship doesn’t always have to do with showing respect for the other team, but supporting your own. Going to games as a competitor and hearing spectators from your own school being disrespectful towards you can be extremely disheartening and affect gameplay.
Spectators often try to take on the role of coach in an attempt to push the players to do their best. However, the words a coach uses to encourage players versus the words audiences use are completely contrary. A coach will tell their players that they are playing rough but they can improve by passing to a different player, for example. A spectator coach will yell at players, telling them that they need to improve and that they are not good enough. To hear someone who is supposed to be supporting you tear you down with no provocation can be distressing, to say the least.
Psychology can be used as an important explanation for why sportsmanship is so important. The ideas of positive reinforcement versus punishment show how an actual coach helps their team and a spectator coach doesn’t. Positive reinforcement is when a reward is given for behavior that is favorable. In the case of a coach and a team, the reward a coach gives is kind words of encouragement, in the hope that the behavior will be repeated. When an unfavorable behavior appears, a coach will remind players of the favorable behavior so that they aren’t burdened with negativity. An observer coach will use punishment in the form of rude words. Each time a player makes a mistake, the “coach” will taunt and punish them, which leads to worse performance.
Observers need sportsmanship more than the players do. Support from the audience is necessary for success on the players part. After all, the athletes are looking for the acceptance of the audience and when they don’t receive that, they become demoralized.