In our Boarding Schools Expo blog, we have placed a lot of emphasis and research in our articles on setting a good example and the importance of role models. For many Australians, athletes and sportsmen and women are important role models for them and their children. Most young boys and girls have their favorite footballer; hockey player or swimmer and many dream of one day competing in the Olympics, World Championships or World Cup just like their hero or heroine. Sport plays a huge role in our country and good sportsmanship and ability is something we pride ourselves on.
But what constitutes good sportsmanship and how do we convey the importance of it to our children? We have come to the end of the 2012 London Olympic games and so far we have seen amazing skill, talent, effort and hard work from all of the athletes and particularly from our young Australian Olympic team. We have also seen a phenomenal effort from our female athletes who have won most of the medals in our medal tally. Yet the Australian media have been overwhelmingly negative and focusing on the ‘disappointment’ of our athletes not winning gold medals and downplaying the significance of silver and bronze medal winners.
The low medal tally prompted debate in the media about the role of competitive sport in Australia and a call for the policy review of many of the sports like swimming by the President of the Australian Olympic Committee John Coates. He suggested that despite winning ten medals in the swimming, the team will be ‘disappointed’. (Caroline Wilson, smh.com.au, 06/08/12)
Winning is Not Everything –
The negative reaction of the Australian Olympic Committee and many media commentators conveys a very clear message to the Australian public; Winning is everything. The singular goal of winning a gold medal is not what good sportsmanship and the Australian ethos is about. Effort, personal best, good team work, hard work, sharing the wins and the losses, the highs and lows of the journey of each Athlete in getting selected to compete at the Olympics is what we should be acknowledging. Each heat, each semi final, each final represents that chance for athletes to do what they do best. And we should congratulate and applaud them at every level and recognize all the hard work and the fact that they are working so hard to proudly represent their country.
Good grace in the face of defeat –
Olympic medalist Mitchell Watt, who claimed Australia’s first track and field medal in the men’s long jump, has rightfully defended both his performance and that of his Australian teammates in London in response to the media’s reactions to the performances of Australian athletes. In a press conference held in London he defended his position to the Australian media by saying “I think people need to start understanding that it is not easy to win an Olympic gold medal and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a silver medal. The team is happy, I am happy, the coach is happy. I got thousands of messages back home that they are happy and the only people that aren’t happy are you guys. So you need to wake up.”
Watt makes a great point and it is one we should keep in mind for any Olympics. Showing good grace in the face of loss is important for any person, whether competing in the Olympics or playing in a local tournament. As Olympic Gold Medalist Oksana Baiul said “ One shouldn’t be afraid to lose; this is sport. One day you win; another day you lose. Of course, everyone wants to be the best. This is normal. This is what sport is about. This is why I love it.” - (http://www.topendsports.com/events/summer/quotes.htm)
Comradery and Team Spirit –
A recent article in the Guardian explained that the British emphasized that the reason they have been doing so well is because they worked ferociously hard, in training teams and groups that were well led and produced a deep sense of belonging and loyalty.
Let us stop and think about the message we are trying to convey to our children about participating in sports and giving everything a go. Instead of pointing out where someone failed to achieve the number one spot, we should highlight the fact that they were there in the first place. We should congratulate them on their hard work, the hours of training and point out that there is always room for improvement.
Sports Minister Kate Lundy defended our athletes by saying, “It is a millimeter or a millisecond and it’s just not going our way. I don’t think that diminishes the achievements of our silver medalists. They are on the podium. We are still way up there with the best of the best in the world in sport.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19165636)
Sport should be about having a go, having fun and learning skills and teamwork with the added bonus that sometimes you can win a trophy. But we need to emphasize it is not about the trophy in the end, its about encouraging children to try their hardest, share in the wins and the losses and be proud of themselves for giving something a go.
GO GIRLS –
Of the 10 medals won in the swimming, Australian female athletes won seven of them. And in our overall medal our female athletes make up tally the majority. In the last twelve days we have seen the intelligence, hard work and determination of our women result in medals for a wide range of events including cycling, track and field, rowing, hockey and water polo. This is an amazing result for a country where women’s sports are often underappreciated and underfunded.
Encourage your kids when watching the Olympics and the Para-Olympics to recognize that our Australian athletes are great role models and people to look up to, even if they don’t win a medal. Athletes make a living from being fit, healthy and strong. Supporting our Olympic athletes regardless of the final medal tally is important for our sense of nationalism and for our reputation as good sports. Finally, it is essential that we emphasize how proud we are of our Olympic team to show our children that we value good sportsmanship, effort and teamwork just as much as winning.
(Caroline Wilson, smh.com.au, 06/08/12)