Many definitions of sport have been proposed to account for different components necessary for an activity to meet the definition’s criteria to be considered a sport. Although there are many operational definitions I propose the definition of sport to be “ An activity involving physical prowess and strategy governed by an institutionalized set of rules, developing the character and virtues of participants creating an ideal sports world that the outside world aspires to emulate”. Many coaches, scholars and sports organizations alike have come to the agreement that the true objective of sport is much more than just winning or money. “Metaphorically, the game of life is an extremely philosophical an ethical business in which people should integrate the values and be virtues in their sporting objectives and goals.”(Casimir, 2013).
I believe that the purpose of sport is to develop and exemplify ethics that better society. Conducting yourself ethically in sport is referred to as sportsmanship, defined as “The ethical behavior exhibited in by a sportsman [or sportswomen] generally considered to involve participation for the pleasure gained from a fair and hard-fought contest, refusal to take unfair advantage of a situation or of an opponent, and graciousness in both winning and losing”.(Websters Sports Dictionary) Sports played ethically strengthens character and moral integrity which will transfer to many aspects of the player’s life when they are off the field. Being able to show respect and effectively collaborate with one’s teammates, coaches, and opponents can be used translate outside of sport building a more ideal society as well. Athletes have a major influence in our society and are often times seen as role models by adults and especially the youth.
Some might contend that the whole objective in sport is to win in order to gain respect in your community of sport which drives you to your best. “The value of winning can become such a seductive goal that all thoughts of moral behavior are temporarily put aside.”(Woods 2011) Do to a major focus of sport being placed on winning, many athletes on all levels of sport can have a difficult time choosing ethical decisions. “For evidence we need only look at the escalating problem of illegal drugs in sports which the United States Anti-Doping Agency has tabbed the most serious problem in sports today an ethic issue stemming from an overemphasis on winning”(Woods 2011)Sport participants who are ethically tenable are able to achieve more accomplishments in their sport than those who fail to make ethical decisions. I argue that with team cooperation and ethical sporting behavior when engaging your opponent in resilient and equitable play you can win far more than just the single game. There is winning the game, but winning the game isn’t the most important event for most sports. The issue is winning the championship. If you want to win the game let your star players make all the moves. If you want to win the championship the best thing is for your star players to do everything they can to develop the other team members. Encouraging team cooperation rather than putting winning above everything else at all times is an important ethic for teams to embody, reciprocity in games. The persons our society admires the most as an athlete is not only the person who wins. Narcissistic winners are not team players, they are focused mostly on themselves. They are not good role models even though they are “winners”. The persons our society admires is someone deeper, the character that’s able to exhibit the qualities that allow you to win a championship. This athlete has a true love for the game and a commitment to one’s teammates. Society admires the ethics of someone who loses with grace almost as much as someone who wins with grace. The ethical athlete who loses an important competition with grace accepts the defeat and works to improve and decrease their possibility of a similar defeat in the future. An athlete who loses the competition and then blames his teammates or the referees is not only unethical but also jeopardizes being able to recognize the need to improve on their own skills.
Ethical sports behavior helps to develops an athletes mental toughness. Developing mental toughness in sport is a key component of athletes striving for excellence. In competition, situations can occur that induce strong negative emotions. Learning how to deal with these emotions is crucial to be able to conduct yourself appropriately and maintain focus on the game when challenges and obstacles that are inevitable do arise. The improvement of mental toughness allows athletes to better take accountability for their mistakes which will allow them to improve into the athletes they want to become. Also, Athletes are also more likely to deal with poor sportsmanship from opponents when they are able to control their emotions and maintain focus on their performance.
Operating from the philosophical position of idealism the goal well playing a sport should be to win but not purely to place yourself over others. The distinguished philosopher Plato who is known to be one of the founders of idealism helps bring a better understanding of how ethics coexist in the realm of sport using. In platonic idealism, Plato introduces the idea of the “Tripartite”. From the Tripartite man can be broken down into three parts that all influence his ethical behavior in all aspects of life including sport, “the appetite of the soul, the emotional soul, and the reasonable soul”.(Casimir, 2013) Plato, knowing that sports are derived from a man would have concluded that ethics in sport coincides with the three parts of man’s nature. In sports activities, however, we see these three parts of man’s nature constantly clashing with one another when choosing to make an ethical decision. . The ethical winner sees that winning helps others who lost reassess their strategies whether that’s a game strategy or how they can practice different to compensate for factors during the game that attributed to there loss. Regardless of winning the winner should not lose their discipline to arrogance and still be able to recognize aspects of there play that can be improved upon as well. Which is why in various sports hubris behavior is reprimanded with penalties such as “excessive celebration” which supports my philosophy that sport is meant to develop ethical behavior and character.