Athletes & the Culture of Winning

There is no denying the impact and influence of sports on American culture and on education in the U.S.

  • A July, 2013 report by Economic Modeling Specialists International stated that the sports industry as a whole brings roughly $14.3 Billion in earnings per year and contributes 456,000 jobs.
  • The Physical Activity Council reports that 217 Million Americans ages 6+ participated in at least one sport or physical activity in 2012.
  • Between 35 and 45 million kids, ages 5-18, participate in organized sports each year. Three out of four families with kids have a son or daughter who plays a sport.
  • A Sports and Fitness Industry Association poll of 42,356 U.S. respondents found that some 70 percent of parents with school age children said they spent more than $100 for team school sports.

Sport transcends social, racial and ethnic barriers — even language barriers.

It has the ability to unite and give hope to communities, as we saw in the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Sports can inspire people to be generous – think of the late coach, Jim Valvano, and his famous ESPY speech that continues to be the catalyst for millions of dollars each year donated to the V Foundation for cancer research.

As for education, students participating in sports has been shown to have higher grade point averages, fewer class days missed, a lower dropout rate, and fewer discipline referrals. In older students, studies show lower rates of drug, alcohol and tobacco use, lower teen pregnancy rates, and higher graduation rates of athletes.

The Benefits of Youth Sports

We view team sports as an effective educational vehicle for cultivating integrity and promoting excellence. It is a connection shared by many children and the adults in their lives. And there are a wide range of lessons that can learned.

Playing team sports can provide children and young adults a whole host of positives: improved health and physical fitness, social interaction and skill development.

Sports offer kids opportunities to develop leadership and self-management skills, a respect for others, a sense of fairness and the value of teamwork and discipline. Sports serve as a valuable training ground for kids to learn how to compete and how to handle winning and losing. And the opportunity to develop social skills while having fun with their friends is an important, and often, overlooked benefit of playing sports.

Sports can promote positive behaviors and attitudes such as valuing fairness, diversity, and being drug-free. It can help them develop self-confidence, self-management, and conflict resolution skills as they learn to deal with winning and losing.

Many of the ethical dilemmas and challenges youth face playing sports are ones they will encounter throughout their lives.

And the need for more ethical and respectful competition is apparent.

Lack of Sportsmanship and Fair Play

In a 2010 national poll of more than 1,500 athletes ages 18 to 30, 93 percent of respondents confirmed that they most enjoy playing sports when everyone shows good sportsmanship, win or lose.

But, the online survey, commissioned by Champion Athleticwear® and conducted by YPulse, found more than half admitted they weren’t having as much fun playing now, as they did when they were younger.

And they cited a number of reasons.

  • 79% said showing good sportsmanship doesn’t seem as important to athletes as it used to be.
  • 81% agreed that athletes today would rather win the game than play completely fairly.
  • 73% believed their peers playing sports believe it’s cheating only if they’re caught.
  • 86% cited an increase in trash-talking.
  • 81% saw a decline in respect toward officials.

And coaches came in for criticism for setting a poor example.

  • 41% said they believed their coach is more concerned about winning than sportsmanship.
  • 45% said they had considered quitting sports because of their coach’s behavior.

We want to help reverse these trends.

We intend to connect young athletes, and the adults in their lives, with the message that achievement requires an even playing field. We will emphasize the importance of respecting the game, and the people who play and officiate it.

And, we won’t do it just with words, but through our actions.

More on that topic in our next post.

Originally Released: 2013-12-12 | Photo Credit: Photo Dean via Flickr

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