Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines sportsmanship as “conduct becoming to an individual involving fair and honest competition, courteous relations and graceful acceptance of results.”
Sportsmanship starts with parents teaching their children how to accept a win or a loss, although in the 4-H youth development program, even if the youth receives a red ribbon, nothing is lost as long as some basic knowledge and skills were gained. Too often in our society we focus on the tangible results of a ribbon or trophy buckle and don’t think about the process that youth went through to achieve the end results and what was learned from that process.
I grew up in the 4-H program here in Douglas county and loved the older youth who took the time to help me learn how to prepare my animals for show and encourage the younger members how to become better showmen. They were all the cool kids; my friends and I tagged along and shadowed their every move at the pre-fair show camps, Lamb Show day and the week of county fair. They were our 4-H Heroes. With that designation, they also carried the burden of setting the correct example.
A few years ago, one of our 4-H clubs decorated their pen at the fair with this saying and it is so appropriate, “Somewhere in this Barn, there is a little kid that wants to be JUST LIKE YOU SOMEDAY. You owe it to them to be the BEST you can be!”
The 4-H program focuses on providing positive youth development and developing young people’s life skills for becoming productive citizens who can help make an impact on our society. A ribbon or trophy buckle does not achieve this; rather it is the process, skills and effort that went into the project. It is also important to mention that the entire 4-H program extends beyond the Lamb Show and county fair and is done through educational workshops, skills contests and leadership experiences and much more and is a year-round program.
Let us focus on three reasons adults and teen leaders should be concerned with developing sportsmanship:
- Youth programs are easier to conduct and are experiences that are more positive for everyone involved if good sportsmanship is demonstrated.
- The development of sportsmanship is an important part of youth development. Youth and adults who develop and show good sportsmanship get along better, and are much more successful on a long-term basis in becoming self-directing, productive, contributing, competent, caring, capable adults, than are those whose behavior is un-sportsmanship-like.
- Sportsmanship is one of the key elements of civilized society. Those who think of the big picture know the reasons for developing sportsmanship extend beyond an individual, a community or a program. When societies allow sportsmanship to decline, their civilizations also decline.
As we get ready for another cycle of Lamb Show, county and state contents and county fair, be reminded that the result is not the ribbon placing, but the skills that each youth learned and remember that another young person is watching to see how we react and will use that example as a model going forward.
It is the responsibility for all adults and teen leaders to set good examples, because we can only control how we individually respond to the results.
If you are interested in reading more about developing sportsmanship, go to the Colorado State Extension website for relative activities to share with youth and visit Penn State College of Agriculture Sciences Cooperative Extension website for an informative resource for club volunteers and parents.
You can find more information about the local Douglas County 4-H program and upcoming events at extension.oregonstate.edu/program/4h/douglas/events.