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We spent this past weekend enjoying the Woman’s World Cup of Soccer. It was USA and Japan in the final, if you missed it. During the match, the ref barely had to blow her whistle, the coaches were calm, and although somebody had to lose, both teams made their countries proud. Every four years, my family and I follow the men’s version of the World Cup and each time we are amazed at the tripping, faking of injuries and trash talking and taunting that occurs during the games. I am beginning to think the lady athletes are far better at being good sports than the guys.
Why such a difference between the men and women when it comes to sportsmanship? The 2005 Josephson Institute survey of high school students revealed that ladies have a stronger commitment to honesty and fair play on the athletic field than do most young men. For instance, 30 percent of the boys surveyed responded that it was okay for the pitcher to throw a pitch directly at a batter that had hit a homer the last time up. Only about 15 percent of the girls thought that was fair payback. Over half of the guys thought it was all right for their coach to argue with the referee, while only 30 percent of the female athletes agreed with that type of intimidation. As far as trash-talking: almost half of the young men thought it was acceptable while just 19 percent of the girls believed it was okay to make fun of an opponent.
Parents, teachers, and coaches can help their kids understand that good sportsmanship is the way to go. It means shaking hands with opponents before and after a game, acknowledging good plays made by others and gracefully accepting a bad call by the ref. Displaying good sportsmanship can be tough. Abby Wambach, the USA’s star striker, said after the USA’s loss to Japan, “I'm very proud of our team. Congratulations to Japan. Their country is very, very proud of them." The children who learn this important life lesson are the kids who are most likely to earn the respect and appreciation of others in every aspect in their life.