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Integrity. Discipline. Class. These are traits that define sportsmanship. These are qualities that not only show respect for an athlete’s competitors, but also a deep respect for the sport itself.

These are things that matter much more than natural talent. An athlete who is graceful in defeat understands the value of defeat. Although a bitter experience, it teaches him or her how to train and improve. Most importantly, it eventually teaches an athlete how to win.

For all the matches, games and meets I have watched, I have found nothing more off-putting than a poor sport. It makes me nauseated to see an athlete storm off the court, or a coach blow his or her top off to a referee. It shows a complete disregard for the effort that was put into the event. It shows disrespect to the entire audience and opponents in attendance. Furthermore, it shows a lack of self-respect. By allowing someone else’s actions take you past the point of control, it becomes apparent that you do not respect yourself or your sport.

I was ashamed to watch the final moments of Super Bowl XLIX. With 18 seconds left in the Championship, Seahawk linebacker Bruce Irvin threw a punch. Moments later, a 30-second brawl ensued, involving the majority of both teams on the field. A single rambunctious athlete was able to invoke bedlam on professional football’s biggest stage. At such a high level of competition, actions such as those are nothing short of disgraceful.

As a wrestler, nothing earns my respect more than good sportsmanship. In victory or defeat, I have always been grateful for the opportunity to wrestle. I was never resentful towards an opponent for besting me; I was only ever upset at myself for inadequately training for the moment.

After every single match I wrestled, I looked my opponent in the eye. I gave him a firm handshake. I did the same with his coaches. Actions like these show appreciation toward every aspect of the sport. Ultimately, anyone can be a good athlete, but one cannot become great without respect.

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The student news site of Naperville North High School
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