Sportsmanship needs more attention. We are all taught as children to respect other players and to respect the game itself, but sportsmanship is often thrown to the side and forgotten as competition becomes more demanding, especially at the intercollegiate level.
With that in mind, it should come with a great sense of pride that one of St. Olaf’s very own student athletes recently won one of four annual NCAA Student-Athlete Sportsmanship Awards in the nation. Bailey Kent ’16, a member of the St. Olaf women’s tennis team, received the award for her actions in last year’s match against cross-town rival Carleton College. Kent called her own net violation after winning a volley for match point after no one else noticed the infraction. What could have been a certain victory in an important doubles match ended up becoming an unexpected win for Carleton.
Not only did Kent’s actions require a lot of courage, especially with victory so close at hand, but they were a perfect display of the sportsmanship that every collegiate athlete should emulate. Kent did what St. Olaf, and every collegiate athletic program in the nation, hopes its athletes would do: to first and foremost uphold respect for the game through sportsmanship. Kent’s display of integrity on the court is not only a positive reflection of her own character but also an example of what other athletes across campus should focus on. Sportsmanship is often forgotten in the heat of competition, and victory is obviously important, but Kent’s admirable act will be remembered far longer than any one match victory.
A lack of sportsmanship can easily be seen in professional sports and also in NCAA Division I athletics, where far too much attention is given to teams’ success, money and publicity, taking away from the true meaning of the game. This attitude towards competition seems to exist from the executives of certain teams all the way down to the athletes themselves. NCAA Division I athletes, especially those competing in “bigger” sports such as football and basketball, have recently begun to demand that they be paid as athletes since merchandise is sold in their name. Not only is this unreasonable, considering that many Division I athletes go to school on hefty scholarships and receive a host of free additional benefits such as meal plans and sporting gear, but it discounts the efforts and accomplishments of many other athletes, specifically those competing at the NCAA Division III level.
In a general sense, Division III athletes are students first. These athletes truly play for the love of the game because there are no scholarships or benefits offered to them. Without the added benefits and compensation through scholarships, Division III athletes tend to be distanced from the urges that make them forsake sportsmanship. The attitude towards athletics shown by higher level divisions and organizations completely disregards the importance of sportsmanship, even though organizations such as the NCAA consider sportsmanship to be one of their core principles.