2015 Essay Contest Winners

“Sportsmanship is something that happens in the defining moments on the field, and in the less visible moments off the field. It is an all-empowering feeling that cannot be quantified by a final score or championship trophy.” – Dani Bergman Chudnow, winner of the 9th/10th grade category.

We are happy to announce the winners of our first-ever Youth Essay Contest on Sportsmanship. Selecting the winners was not easy as we received many quality entries from student athletes across the city. As one of our judges, Craig Carton of WFAN Radio, said, “All of the finalists are winners and show an amazing understanding and passion for Sportsmanship. All of these kids/young adults should be commended for their essays and they personally should be viewed as ambassadors for sportsmanship throughout NYC.”

Entrants were asked to submit a 400-500-word essay on “What sportsmanship means to me.”  They could have chosen to share a true story of good sportsmanship that they observed or were a part of, but it was not required. The essays were separated into four categories: 6th & 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th  & 10th grade and 11th & 12th grade. Winners in each category will be awarded $500 cash prizes. Finalists will receive $100 prizes.

Essays were judged on the basis of originality, emotional appeal, use of the theme, grammar and spelling and writing skills appropriate for the author’s age. Essays were presented anonymously to the judges. Any names (such as of sports programs, schools or teams) that were mentioned in the text and which could have made them identifiable were removed. In such cases the text was re-inserted in the essays linked to below.

In addition to Craig Carton, the judging panel included John Franco, a former NY Mets pitcher and a partner of NYC All Star Sports Group; Mike Puma, a sportswriter with the New York Post: Dr. Richard Park, the CEO of CityMD which was a Supporting Sponsor of this contest, and Luis Fernando Llosa, co-author of Beyond Winning, co-founder of www.WholeChildSports.com and a former Sports Illustrated associate editor. Click here to read more about the judges.

Franco added: “It was an honor to help judge New York Sports Connection’s First Annual Youth Essay Contest. The essays submitted by the finalists showed a level of maturity way beyond their years, and were a testament to the amazing work done by parents, coaches, and volunteers to ensure that our kids’ youth sports experience teaches real life lessons.”

We’d like to thank all the young kids across New York City who took the time out of what we know are very busy schedules to write essays describing what sportsmanship means to them. We were overwhelmed by the response and to the wonderful essays we received. Congratulations to the winners, the finalists, the honorable mentions and all the student athletes who submitted essays. It’s clear that sportsmanship is alive and well in NYC.

Below are the winners. Click on the links to read their essays.

 

6th & 7th Grade

Winner: Ginger Mullen, 6th grader at MS 447 (Brooklyn)

Finalists: Aliza Hacking, 6th grader at MS 54 (Delta) Booker T. Washington (Manhattan) and Mathias Zawoiski, 7th grader at PS/IS 187 (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention: Tessa Wayne, 7th grader at Columbia Grammar Prep School (Manhattan)

 

8th Grade

Winner: Mary Kate McGranahan, 8th grader at Saint Ignatius Loyola (Manhattan)

Finalists: Julianna Fabrizio, 8th grader at NYC Lab Middle School (Manhattan) and Isabel Stern, 8th grader at The Brearley School (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention: Julie Jastremski, 8th grader at Notre Dame Academy (Staten Island) and Jordan Jaffe, 8th grader at East Side Middle School

 

9th & 10th Grade
Winner:
Dani Bergman Chudnow, 10th grader at Eleanor Roosevelt HS (Manhattan)

Finalists: Eyob Ford, 10th grader at Churchill School and Center (Manhattan) and Jennifer Yu, 9th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention: Eliza Paradise, 10th grader at Hunter College HS (Manhattan)

 

11th & 12th Grade

Winner: Sifan Lu, 12th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

Finalists: Connor Mulvena, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan) and Michael Bivona, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan)

Honorable Mention: Paul Gargiulo, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan); Charlotte Youkilis, 11th grader at The Packer Collegiate Institute (Brooklyn); and Emily Hirtle, 11th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)


THE ESSAYS

6th & 7th Grade Winner: Ginger Mullen, 6th grader at MS 447 (Brooklyn)

What is sportsmanship? Is it a small smile towards a competitor on the starting line? Is it a thumbs-up after a great race? Is it a handshake that says a silent “good job”? Sportsmanship is all of these things and much more. To me, sportsmanship is respecting and supporting your teammates and opponents.  Sportsmanship greatly affects me in practice, during competitions and throughout my every day life.

Sportsmanship means countless things to me.  It strengthens my relationships with my teammates.  Sportsmanship inspires mutual respect between me and my competitors from other teams. For me, sportsmanship is wishing the best luck for my competitors, acknowledging a loss and supporting my teammates. Role models, and prior experience in sports directly affect sportsmanship. My track coach supports the idea of supporting everyone on the team. No matter if you are the fastest or slowest person, everyone plays an equal role in supporting one and other. Without sportsmanship, a team cannot be successful. Essentially, sportsmanship is the mortar that holds bricks together.  The bricks are the skill and love for the sport, but without the mortar you cannot have a team. A pile of bricks is useless, but a wall can have a great impact, just the way a team can.

Sportsmanship greatly affects my relationship with my teammates that are also my competitors.  This fall I joined the Prospect Park Youth Running Club and everyone was welcoming and kind. Because of sportsmanship, track is a very special sport. Track is not a typical team sport.  Essentially, you are running with your friends at practice and then you also race against them at meets. Sportsmanship plays a vital role in this process. During practice you are not racing to beat anyone, you are just hanging out with your friends and running together. But during the track meets you are competing with these people that you train with, and even more importantly, are friends with. Some might think that all I want to do is win or get a good time myself and not care about my teammate’s times. But really, I want my teammates to do well, because I see how hard they train and how much they deserve to do well. A good day isn’t when someone beats everyone else and only one person is happy, it’s when everyone does there best and gets PRs (personal records).  Then, it doesn’t matter who is first or second, it just matters that we all did the best we could.

I remember my last track meet.  My friend and I were talking in the car afterwards, discussing the amazing race we had that day because we both got PRs in the 3000-meter. I remember chasing her during the race, focusing on her red headband.  The urge to beat her was so real.  I crossed the finish line 7 seconds after her and we smiled and hugged.  Seconds later my other teammates shouted, “Did you hear us cheering?”  I smiled and nodded, “Of course I heard you.”

 

6th & 7th Grade Finalist: Aliza Hacking, 6th grader at MS 54 (Delta) Booker T. Washington (Manhattan)

Every day, people around the world play sports and games, and are constantly reminded to be good sports when playing. The question is, what effects does sportsmanship have? Personally, I believe that one’s personality in sports can be very reflective of his or her everyday personality, and it can also determine the amount of success he or she has. In other words, good sports tend to be kind and successful people whereas bad sports tend to be not as nice and not as successful.

Good sportsmanship can truly lead to a good life; for example, I play on a travel soccer team, and I have for a couple seasons now. Two seasons ago, my team won our division in terms of games won, and more importantly sportsmanship scores. The interesting thing about this experience was that, throughout the year, my team was lucky enough to have a team entirely filled with kind, intelligent, exuberant, wonderful girls. To me, this really shows why we won the sportsmanship award. The award reflected the personalities of the players on, and off the field. For example, there was a game that season where we played a team that also had great sportsmanship. The game was really fun because everybody’s attitude was great, and it made for a really happy game. Likewise, on my gymnastics team, this year we had not just good teammates, but supportive coaches. Because of the good example of sportsmanship my coach set, I have improved more than I thought possible from last year, and so has the rest of my team. Good sportsmanship can and will lead to success and kindness.

Similarly, bad sportsmanship can hurt the people that are being bad sports, and hurt others in the process. For example, I was playing in a soccer game one time when I spotted a diabolical smile from a girl on the opposing team. I predicted that she was going to be trouble, and she turned out to be even worse than I had thought. During the game, she fouled the girls on my team for no reason, and she ended up spraining my ankle. She also ended up hurting me mentally. She ended up being in my class at school, and it was the most painful experience of my life. She bullied me so that I came home crying every night, and she turned all my friends against me- it was a lonely, painful year. It just goes to show, what you do on the field can really reveal your personality.

Overall, sportsmanship can help or hurt people in an infinite number of ways, and, in a bad form, it IS a form of bullying. Therefore, it must be stopped. Whether on a soccer field, gymnastics mat, or in a part of life, sportsmanship has a true effect on the world. It can cause endless pain, or make the world a better place.

 

6th & 7th Grade Finalist: Mathias Zawoiski, 7th grader at PS/IS 187 (Manhattan)

I began lacrosse in fifth grade.  My brother and I wanted to play after we saw it on a TV series called, “Teen Wolf.”  The game was exciting and the players strong and swift.  We were awestruck watching a club team practice. The kids were having so much fun, even though the drills looked exhausting and hard. I loved speed of the game and have played now for three years.

At that first practice, it was easy to identify the star of the team.  He was confident, quick, aggressive and had the best lacrosse gear money can buy.  He came to practices and games styled in matching neon green and black gear and apparel from head to toe, while the rest of us proudly wore hand-me-downs donated to our inner city club.

The star started every game while we patiently waited our turn.  Coach wanted a guaranteed win, so why not keep the star in the game?  Our team was new, less than 6 months old. We won sometimes against seasoned opponents. Our team was happy. Our coach was happy.  Our team cheered, “We won!” but I never touched the ball, which was true of 90% of my teammates.  The star player scored the goals, so did we win?

My apprehensiveness solidified at our first lost.  The opposing team was not stronger or faster, but more skillful.  They identified our weakness: our star player. They double-triple-quadruple teamed him. He lost the ball because he was not use to passing it. About half way in the game, the star player was very upset.  He walked off the field during the game, yelled at the referee and yelled at his teammates. He made illegal body checks and even threw his stick on the ground at the sidelines.  The behavior became infectious. Other teammates started reacting the same way and it was embarrassing. I wish I could say this was the only time my team had temper tantrums but it was not.

Then, we got a new coach. He saw one of our infamous games and gave a speech describing what being a good teammate involves.  He explained the importance of supporting your comrades and sharing the same goals. He said selflessness and sportsmanship are the best qualities a teammate can have.

That speech meant a lot to me and to the team. We play differently now. Games are more fun because we are all getting touches on the balls; players are passing, even the star player, and if we win or lose it is not because of one person.  I learned that success in any sport is measured by how our team finishes, not the individual efforts.  Great teams normally have talented players, but when a team plays well and respects each other, every player is noticed and recognized.  This is a life lesson that I will never forget.

 

6th & 7th Grade Honorable Mention: Tessa Wayne, 7th grader at Columbia Grammar Prep School (Manhattan)

Sportsmanship is the most important characteristic of not only an athlete, but a person. At some point everyone has to compete against someone else and not just in sports. Although you are trying to do something better than someone else, competition is still supposed to be fun. I love to compete in sports and I am always trying to do my best to help my team.  Competition is only healthy when everyone plays fairly and poor sportsmanship should not ruin the experience for others. This is why sportsmanship is important to me.

Although I am in seventh grade, I made it onto the High School Varsity Basketball team at my school.  Being so young, every game we played was a new adventure for me, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Even though I was much younger than them, my teammates always showed good sportsmanship during our practices and scrimmages.  They did not inappropriately “go after” me just because I was the little one, and they did not avoid passing to me just to make me feel bad. I was treated like everyone else.  My teammates exhibiting this kind of sportsmanship made the many practices we had much more fun and welcoming.

When playing other schools, however, some teams did not exemplify good sportsmanship. Against one team there was a very tall girl who found me guarding her very annoying.  Given my height I was able to steal the ball and dribble low without her even noticing I was there. This got her very aggravated so she decided to take out her anger on me. While running up and down the court she would hold onto me when the referee was not looking, and when her team would try to inbound the ball, she would very strongly push me over, to get open and get the inbound. Finally, in the third quarter, I caught the ball outside the three-point line, and I saw a girl cutting to the basket. As I released the pass, all of a sudden I feel a sharp pain and I fell to the ground, gasping for air. She had come at me and struck me so hard it knocked the wind out of me.

This was one of the few games that I did not have fun at during the season. If she was just a good player and was not inappropriately physical, I would have enjoyed trying to defend a larger, stronger player.  This is why, I believe that sportsmanship is such an important characteristic. Without it, people could get hurt, and not enjoy themselves since competition is about having fun and getting better. I love to play competitive basketball and I have learned whether one is the strongest or the weakest player on the court, the most important attribute a player should have is sportsmanship.

 

8th Grade Winner: Mary Kate McGranahan, 8th grader at Saint Ignatius Loyola (Manhattan)

“Good game, good game, good game,” a team says as they walk down a line and high five their opponents. The score of the game has already been decided. The players are simply going through the routine, the motions. This seems like an unimportant moment. However, this moment can actually be one of the most pivotal moments in the game-day experience. This moment has defined sportsmanship for me over my many years of athletic experience.

I had a basketball game that went into overtime. My school and the opposing team were evenly matched. Both teams fought hard and gave everything they had, however when the buzzer rang my team had won by a single, two-point basket. When we went to shake hands with our opposing side I held out my hand to the girl in front of me and began to walk forward. I was met with a scrape. Instead of the customary high-five, the girl had stuck her nails out at an angle so that when my teammates and I went to high-five they scraped across our hands leaving some ugly scratches. Some of her teammates followed the suit, and to this day if the game is brought up in conversation no one comments on how the other team fought hard and what a great game it was, no one comments on their point guard’s amazing three-point shot. All my team remembers is the ungraciousness of their loss. I learned the lesson that sportsmanship should continue after the clock stops.

This lesson can be translated to the winning side also. Just as no one likes a sore loser, no one likes a bragging winner. It is important to show respect for the losing side. When a team wins a big game, they should line up to shake hands with the opposing team before celebrating. It is important to show that you respect the effort of the opposing team. It is also important not to gloat or show off to your opponent after a game. They fought hard too, and losing the fight as an experience every athlete has to go through. Respect the losing side just as you want to be respected when you lose.

Sportsmanship consists of a loser holding their head up high and showing respect for the winning side and the winner reflecting the same respect back on the losing side. Sportsmanship does not stop once you step off the field, or court, or track; in fact, that is when it is just beginning.

 

8th Grade Finalist: Julianna Fabrizio, 8th grader at NYC Lab Middle School (Manhattan)

When children are first taught to play sports, one of the first things they teach you is good sportsmanship. They tell you to pass the ball and always be nice to your teammates. But once you leave, sportsmanship is hardly ever mentioned. Coaches will tell you after a loss to leave those feelings on the court. However, a good amount of the time not only is the score left on the court, but so is the good sportsmanship that goes along with it. Unfortunately, at basketball practice, they don’t teach you sportsmanship off the court. It is often never referred to as sportsmanship. We call it many different things such as etiquette, hospitality, and friendliness, to name a few. Why is it that it’s very respectable to talk of sportsmanship on the basketball court, and expected of you, yet these unofficial rules don’t always carry through to our everyday lives? Sportsmanship is not just an unspoken rule of the basketball court, it is a lifestyle. But why is it that the same people I see shaking my hand and saying good game on Saturday are the same ones skipping me in line at a pizza parlor?

Sportsmanship is about more than just the game itself. It’s not about shaking hands afterwards, it’s about saying good game regardless of the score. It’s not just about saying sorry for knocking someone over, it’s about meaning it. It’s about developing friendships with your teammates (and opponents) off of the court. It’s about caring about others regardless of if they’re your teammate, opponent, or a complete stranger. It’s about supporting your teammates regardless of skill level, gender, or race. There’s a lot more to sportsmanship than empty words and actions. Sportsmanship is a degree of selflessness that is often difficult to achieve. But many don’t strive to achieve that. When we finish a practice at Steady Buckets, we always end it with “hard work.” But hard work doesn’t just apply to the workout skills. It applies to sportsmanship as well. You have to work hard at sportsmanship. It’s not something that’s learned overnight. You don’t wake up one morning and suddenly have good sportsmanship. You have to teach yourself to pick others up when they’re down. You have to teach yourself to care when others are hurt, or achieve a goal. You have to work hard to display sportsmanship both on and off the court. After all, sportsmanship surrounds us. It’s everywhere we look and everywhere we go.

 

8th Grade Finalist: Isabel Stern, 8th grader at The Brearley School (Manhattan)

I have found that as sports get more and more competitive, sportsmanship becomes more noticeable.  I have been playing travel soccer for Manhattan Soccer Club since I was eight years old and have played hundreds of games. I have experienced a great deal of good and bad sportsmanship. Sportsmanship to me is when the atmosphere on the field is supportive and positive.

When I first began to play soccer it was mostly recreational, far less intense. All the girls were nice, but there wasn’t necessarily anything for them to be mean about. However, as I entered and advanced through club level soccer the intensity increased and with it, an absence of good sportsmanship began to appear. I found myself being called inappropriate names on the field. It’s not that I felt sad or upset when people called me bad words, but rather disappointed.  This unpleasantness on the field detracts from the game I love, and when these nasty words are spoken, I notice it. When both my own team and the other team are saying mean things or yelling at one another or the ref, or in any other way disrupting the game in a negative aspect, I get distracted. This distraction causes me to lose focus on the game, and causes others to lose focus as well. These distractions can lead to injuries and a lower quality of soccer. The game then also becomes less about soccer and more about the tension on the field. You don’t walk away from a game that had poor sportsmanship and remember the soccer you played. Instead, you mostly remember the awful behavior on the field, and that is not something I want to remember.

Good sportsmanship on the other hand is what makes the game what it is. When there is a positive and respectful energy on the field everyone, from the players, to the coaches, to the parents, and to the refs all notice it. Good sportsmanship doesn’t necessarily mean you say sorry if you foul another player or compliment the other teams’ passes. I believe that what makes someone a good sport is if they are considerate of you, and allow the game to be played without any disruptions. When all the players know that everyone is out there to enjoy and play the game, it’s a lot more fun. The best form of good sportsmanship I have ever experienced was during a U12 game. It was a throw-in that was clearly ours, but the ref didn’t see it properly so gave it to the other team. However, a player on the other team realized that he had made the wrong call and told the ref that it was in fact our ball. This was good sportsmanship because it allowed the game to be played fairly.

Good sportsmanship is a sign that all the players on the field love the game and appreciate it enough to know not to blow the competitive aspect of the game out of proportion.

 

8th Grade Honorable Mention: Julie Jastremski, 8th grader at Notre Dame Academy (Staten Island)

“There is no “I” in team” is a phrase that all athletes have heard at least once in their lifetime. Actually, I am pretty sure it is a phrase that all athletes have heard at least a hundred times in their lifetime. While it might be a phrase that seems pretty straightforward, the message behind the saying is a lot deeper than people realize. Although athletes are taught the importance of sportsmanship from their coaches in order to help their team achieve success on the field, not many athletes realize that the lessons that sportsmanship teaches can be carried onto other parts of their lives.

Sportsmanship to me is something that I have learned throughout the course of my ten-year soccer career. I think that sportsmanship is something that all athletes must show in order to become the best they can possibly be, but not just on the field. I believe that sportsmanship is something that makes you a better person in every single part of your life. Sportsmanship is choosing to do the right thing even when you are tempted to do the wrong thing.

This type of mentality is something that can be used throughout your life, even when you aren’t playing in a game. Real life situations require for you to have sportsmanship in order to be the best version of yourself. Some of the environments where sportsmanship can be shown are at home, at school, with friends and even when you are talking to someone new.

At home we must have sportsmanship. It is something that is a key element to being happy and having balance in a relationship. Sportsmanship is represented at home when you don’t give back talk to your parents, siblings, or relatives. I know that I try my best to use the lessons of sportsmanship when my mom asks me to fold the laundry instead of one of my other siblings. A team player will rise to the task. And yes, folding laundry is a task!

At school sportsmanship is also important. At school we are surrounded in an environment where everyone wants the best for us. Our teachers, principals and other staff members try their best to give us a great education. Sportsmanship is shown in school when we respect the people trying their best to help benefit us and to have trust in our leaders.

I know that I would not be the daughter, sister, student, friend or athlete I am today if it wasn’t for the lessons that sportsmanship has taught me. I am grateful to have had the chance to play soccer my entire life and to learn how to become the best version of myself. Sportsmanship should be present in everyone’s lives today because it can make the world a better place. So whenever you hear that phrase “there’s no “I” in team” again, don’t forget to take it with you off the field too.

 

8th Grade Honorable Mention, Jordan Jaffe, 8th grader at East Side Middle School

Sportsmanship to me means keeping calm when things don’t go the right way with someone on your team. It means that when someone in basketball misses a shot, or someone in baseball strikes out, or someone in football drops the ball, we should try hard not to get mad and yell at our teammate. Rather, we should try to be kind and encouraging and support them going forward in the game. Yelling and screaming at someone can only make them feel worse and be more scared in the future to play the game. Encouragement makes our teammates better; yelling makes them worse.

One example of when this happened to me was when I was playing on my flag football team. I was playing quarterback and threw the ball to one of our weaker players, who was wide open in the middle of the field. The boy dropped the ball, and as a result we turned the ball over on downs. I was very upset knowing we had missed a prime opportunity to prolong our drive and potentially score on the drive. At first I was going to yell at my teammate. Instead, I stepped back and realized nothing good can happen from yelling at him. I decided to pat him on the back and tell him that he will catch the ball the next time.

In some cases I have been on the other end of the spectrum. Once, while playing on my baseball team I made a bad throw and cost our team a run. One of the older kids on the team yelled and me and made me feel very bad. I was upset and unwilling to focus on the field. That caused me to make even more mistakes and ultimately caused us to lose the game. I realized that what this boy had done was the wrong thing and that I needed to pick myself up and continue playing the game as hard as I could. I also swore that if that ever happened to someone on my team that I would never yell at them or upset them.

Both of these experiences have helped me gather a greater understanding of sportsmanship. It made me realize that there is no reason for me to get mad or upset at anyone on my team. I came to understand that we are just playing a game; we are not professionals and it really doesn’t matter if we win or lose. In the 30 years no one will remember who had the winning hit or who had the bad play on the field. But everyone will remember our character, which is reflected in the way we treat our teammates. Ultimately, sportsmanship is not only playing my best. It is also supporting my teammates, to bring out the best of those around me.

 

9th & 10th Grade Winner: Dani Bergman Chudnow, 10th grader at Eleanor Roosevelt HS (Manhattan)

Twenty years from now, when I have a career and family of my own, I probably will not remember exactly which soccer games I won or lost, what division titles we held, or the score from any one specific game. What I will remember are those moments when what happened on and around the soccer field inspired me and helped me to become a person who can take on any challenge that I face with both integrity and pride. Sportsmanship is something that happens in the defining moments on the field, and in the less visible moments off the field. It is an all-empowering feeling that cannot be quantified by a final score or championship trophy.

Sportsmanship takes on many forms and may not always look the same, but has a feeling that is unmistakable and completely recognizable. I will never forget as a little kid sitting in a circle after my first league soccer game when my coach asked each player to say something awesome or special about what another player contributed on the field. It may sound silly and even easy, but it wasn’t. “Not every play was great or even good,”  I remember hesitantly pointing out to my first coach. My coach wisely and with kindness responded, “Not all plays are praiseworthy, but all players are.”

That statement and belief changed the way I play and how I see the game and those who play. Every single person on a team wants to win. Some players are superstars- while other players may be good but somewhat less talented. Yet, everybody on a team has the ability to contribute in some meaningful way, whether that contribution is to the final score or to the morale or spirit of the team. I have learned that sportsmanship is the glue that bonds each individual member of a team together creating a force that causes great things to happen both on and off the field. Sportsmanship is what creates the memories that we will carry with us as we continue to chase our dreams in the future. But, more importantly, sportsmanship plants the seeds within us that will help us to always treat each other kindly and to see the unique and awesome contributions all people are able to make.  Sportsmanship instills within me the knowledge that there is more to life than the final score of any one game and sportsmanship enables us all to see greatness in others and within ourselves.

 

9th & 10th Grade Finalist: Eyob Ford, 10th grader at Churchill School and Center (Manhattan)

When I was 11 years old, I had the worst sportsmanship a player could have. I yelled at the players on other teams, and when I lost I would not shake the other team’s hands and would even spit on players. I used to get really upset and yell at the refs. Terrible things.

I used to think the game of soccer was just about winning and getting better. But now since I’ve grown up I’ve realized that soccer is much more than a sport. It’s a life lesson that teaches you the ups and downs, the hurdles and mounds you have to climb.

Soccer is very similar to life. When you get sent off in a football match, its like going to jail in the real world.  When you get sent off, you get kicked out of the game, you let your team down, you let your coach down, you let the fans down. You are not able to score goals or help your team win the game.  When you go to jail, you let your family down, your friends down, your teacher down, the people who look up to you down, and you are not able to get a job or earn money.  Both football and the real word connect to each other crucially.

Since I was 11 years old a lot has changed. Not just my size, but my personality.  If I hadn’t changed, I don’t think I would have gone as far as I have in the game and in life. I go to a good school, I have good grades, I have a good relationship with my family and friends and I play for a good football team. If I would have stayed the same as when I was 11 years old, I think I would have ended up in jail and in a gang.

To be positive in life and to have a good personality can make a world of difference to what you want to achieve, rather than having a negative attitude and a bad view of life.  The game of football is a beautiful game. And the beautiful game should be treasured. Life is also a beautiful game but in this game just like in a soccer game you have strategies and challenges. Playing fair in life and playing fair in football are important if you want to be happy and successful. That’s what good sportsmanship is to me.

 

9th & 10th Grade Finalist: Jennifer Yu, 9th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

Before the stresses of high school took over my life, I had a lot of time on my hands. I spent most of pre-high school years focused around tennis. I picked up my racquet at the age of three, began playing tournaments at ten, and was touring around the country in the summer by the time I was almost twelve. I visited many states in the South and the Midwest, gaining novel experiences along the way. Doing new things and visiting new places was fun and all, but when I checked into the hotel the day before my tournament, the goal only became one thing. To win.

Wanting to win is nothing to be ashamed of. The aggressive nature of competitive athletes, the energy that emanates from a desire to dominate and achieve, is one of the most beautiful aspects of sports. However, I took “stop at nothing” to a whole different level—I yelled, I cried, I argued.  A lot of it was due to my immaturity, but I never realized the true value of sportsmanship until one tournament…

I had just won a match where the opponent accused me of making bad calls on the lines. Before I won, though, she had been on some of her worst behavior—screaming, crying, even trying to make a bad call in retaliation. Walking off the court, I was already overly agitated, not to mention that my call was, in fact, correct. What really did me in, however, was when her parents started calling me a cheater. They decided to pick on a child, even though they had no basis for their accusations. Their words stung, so I went into the bathroom, and began to cry. I doubt the girl and her parents ever realized the pain their behavior inflicted on me. That’s what bad sportsmanship is like—bullying. Instead of growing resentful, I realized that my bad behavior may have left the same effect on other girls. My parents never got involved in my on-court conflicts; I was the sole blame.

It’s important to win in sports, to try your hardest, to succeed. But there’s a greater victory when you exhibit sportsmanship as you try to excel. Sportsmanship is not just something that is shown in athletics, but an attitude you can take with you off the court and into the world. Being courteous to your opponent not only shows respect for your opponent’s work and skill, but also honors the game. To be a bad sportsman, to bully others to fear you, is simply bringing shame and dishonor on your aspirations. I never behaved badly again after that incident. It does not mean I became a docile pup, allowing my opponents to kick me around. In fact, I became stronger and more confident in myself, because I knew could win, and still be able to act dignified on court. The beauty of the game lies not only in the heart of the players, but also in their attitudes.

 

9th & 10th Grade Honorable Mention: Eliza Paradise, 10th grader at Hunter College HS (Manhattan)

As a student athlete and someone who has been involved in sports for almost my entire life, the word sportsmanship has always played a large role in my life. It’s difficult to define because it’s not one concrete thing. Sportsmanship is an attitude– a way of looking at things and a way of treating others. Most importantly, it’s about preserving the integrity of the sport and having fun while doing so. My involvement in sports has shaped who I am and has taught me lessons that I carry with me in academics and in other areas of my life.

From an early age, I have heard the word sportsmanship and been taught what it means to “be a good sport.” Through each of the sports I’ve participated in over the years, my notion of sportsmanship has expanded. I believe that sportsmanship is more than just how you treat the people you are competing against. It’s also about how you conduct yourself on and off the field.

This year, I had an experience at a track meet that I will never forget which to me perfectly illustrates the notion of sportsmanship. I was lining up to get on the track and talking to a junior from a competing school named Lauren. Our conversation was interrupted when a meet official indicated for me to warm up on the track. Although I was a little puzzled, I jogged a lap around the track, followed by Lauren and some of her teammates. However, when I returned back to the start line, the meet official looked frustrated and explained that I wasn’t supposed to run all the way around, just jog a couple of feet ahead and come back. Lauren smiled comfortingly at me, telling me that she knew I wasn’t supposed to run all the way around but that she had told her teammates to follow me anyway. This action touched me, and I was struck by this friendly gesture that saved me from extreme embarrassment. To me, that was sportsmanship, because she was kind to me even though we were about to compete, saving me from running all the way around alone and looking foolish (I was too far to be called back once anyone realized I was going all the way around). This turned a potentially embarrassing experience into something laughable, reminding me that there’s room for fun even during intense competition. Receiving this support from a competitor truly exemplified the meaning of good sportsmanship.

With good sportsmanship, both competitors and teammates preserve the spirit and fun of the sport, allowing it to unite them. This means that they treat each other with respect, offer support to each other, and congratulate each other no matter who wins. It means that they play fairly, following the rules and remaining honest. This is because when players truly have good sportsmanship, there is no need to create a negative environment when, at the heart of it all, everyone’s there for one purpose: to have fun.

 

11th & 12th Grade Winner: Sifan Lu, 12th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

I stood on the diving block tracing my teammate’s path to the wall. When her feet were past my line of vision, I swung my arms around and propelled myself into the water. A jolt of coldness hit my body, followed by blindness, and I realized that my goggles had fallen to my neck.

I was nearly paralyzed with shock. I forced my eyes open and took a breath, choking on a mouthful of water. This was the 400-yard freestyle relay, the final event, the only relay in which my school held the top seed, and we were less than a second away from breaking our school record: this was the grand finale. If we won, our relay would move on to the state championships, but we had to beat our rivals who were close behind. I was the third leg of the relay and my teammates were screaming and cheering for me, but all I could hear were profanities reverberating through my mind. I willed myself forward, measuring the distance to the wall by looking for approaching flags every time I took a breath.

When I hit the final wall, I felt I had gulped down a gallon of chlorinated water, and my eyes were burning. Residual shock threatened to bubble up and burst into tears. I slumped down, knowing our rival team had passed us during my swim. With one final leg to go, our best swimmer flew through the water, catching up to the other team, but she was out-touched by 0.1 second. Our rivals jeered us and pounded the water. Mustering all my self-restraint, I held my hand out in congratulations. Knowing we could have won had I not lost control of my goggles, I struggled to keep my voice from becoming hysterical as I apologized to my relay-mates. I accepted their hugs of condolence as they told me it wasn’t my fault. Wretchedly knowing I had robbed these girls of the opportunity to swim at States, I nearly began sobbing. Later, I discovered I had actually swum one of my fastest times. This news gave me no comfort at the time, as I could only think that I had let my teammates down.

By the time I made my way through the warm-down pool to the bleachers, tears were wracking my body. Three of my teammates who had not been swimming jumped into the pool with their clothes on to hug and comfort me as the rest of the team huddled around us. They helped me out of the pool and as we all cried together, I realized this was no longer just my team; this was my second family. I had lost the race, but my team did not blame me and only strove to cheer me up. We endured the taunts of our rivals, and only reacted by shaking their hands in congratulations. Though the meet came to an unfortunate end, I witnessed true sportsmanship that day.

 

11th & 12th Grade Finalist: Connor Mulvena, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan)

Sportsmanship is a virtue that seems sometimes very foreign in contemporary American society. On the national level, people spend hundreds of dollars to go to professional sports games, and a majority of the country watches big sports games on national television. Some of the athletes idolized by the avid sports fans of America seem to show no sportsmanship whatsoever in their craft. They flip their bats after homeruns, dance after touchdowns, perform elaborate celebrations for the crowd after goals, and gesture to the crowd after dunks. People rarely see the popular players showing signs of good sportsmanship, and thus they do not value or realize its importance.

Like many Americans, at a young age I did not value sportsmanship. I was always told by my parents to be a good sport, and of course I listened, but I didn’t understand why that was important. In fact, I saw showing good sportsmanship as a weakness. It seemed to me that caring about the other team and being respectful were opposites to the competitive nature of sports. Ultimately, I equated sportsmanship with a lack of passion for the game. It was not until I was thirteen years old when I realized what sportsmanship truly meant. In the summer of 2011 I was playing in a baseball tournament at Diamond Nation in Flemington, New Jersey. My team was playing, a team from Maryland, the Yard Dogs, that we had never played before. In the third inning, a player on the Yard Dogs slid awkwardly into home plate in a bang-bang play and appeared to be hurt. We didn’t know if it was serious at first, but upon a closer look, we could all see that the player had clearly broken his leg. It was a gruesome sight. After the ambulance had taken the player to the nearby hospital, instead of continuing the game, all of the players and coaches from both teams went to the mound and kneeled in prayer together. We prayed that the player was ok and that he came back healthy. It was a simple but beautiful moment. It was at this moment that I realized what sportsmanship was. Sportsmanship was not a lack of passion for the game at all. It suddenly appeared to me that sportsmanship is maturity; it’s the ability to realize that baseball is merely a game in the scheme of things. The important thing is not that we win, but that we play the game for the reason we play all games: to have fun. We don’t play sports to boost our egos or prove how good we are at something. We play games to grow with others, challenge ourselves mentally and physically, and become better people through competition. Sportsmanship is the ability to recognize the reasons for which we play sports.

 

11th & 12th Grade Finalist: Michael Bivona, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan)

What is sportsmanship? The Merriam- Webster dictionary defines it as “fair play, respect for opponents, and polite behavior by someone who is competing in a sport or other competition.” However, this technical definition, fails to recognize the impact and overarching influence sportsmanship has on lives. Everyone has experienced sportsmanship at some point in his life. To me, sportsmanship is both the positive morals and virtues a competitor exemplifies out of respect for the love of competition. Sportsmanship defines an athlete as well as a competitor. How one acts can either justify his abilities or turn public opinion against him. Yet, exemplifying sportsmanship qualities goes further than popular public opinion to shape an athlete. A true athlete uses his gifts for a sport he loves, a sport he would be lost without. An athlete with a sense of sportsmanship owes it to his sport to respect the morals that come with it. In doing so, those virtues become part of his identity.

The best way I can outline sportsmanship is not by attributing a specific definition but rather describing an action that exemplifies it. No matter one’s definition of the word, he/she is able to recognize it when it happens right before his/her eyes. As a high school wrestler, I have competed in hundreds of tournaments. I have seen thousands of reactions to losses and defeats. At times, emotions get the best of a competitor and he/she reacts in anger, forfeiting the values and morals that wresting is built around. A wrestling match has so many factors: mental capability, physical strength, determination, etc. A wrestler steps onto the mat prepared to give everything he has within him to compete. Once he steps foot inside that circle he is alone and his own preparation and performance will define the course of the match. However, there is no better way to define a sportsman than that wrestler who gets up off that mat after that whistle blows for a loss, gasping for air, and walks to the center of the mat to shake both his opponents hand and the hand of the opposing coach. Wrestlers are taught this sign of respect from the very beginning and that one sign defines a wrestler. Accepting defeat, learning, growing from, and rising up again are what define a man of true sportsmanship.

A sportsman is a man who honors his love for a sport with consistent respect for teammates, coaches, opponents, fans, and family because without them his love would never exist. Lives are shaped by the virtues that define a sport. Those virtues stick with a person throughout life. For this reason, a competitor owes it to himself and the sport to be a sportsman. Try to always live your life as that wrestler who in defeat, gets up off that mat, suppresses all the rampant emotions running through his mind and shakes the hand of his opponent as sign of admiration for the love of his sport.

 

11th & 12th Grade Honorable Mention: Paul Gargiulo, 11th grader at Xavier HS (Manhattan)

Sportsmanship to me is engaging in fair play with both your teammates and your opponents. As part of my school’s rifle team, I have seen this demonstrated by my coach and by the team leaders. From watching and experiencing my leaders compete fairly, I have been provided with a model on how to lead by example among my peers. My most memorable experience came during my freshman year in my first competition as part of the team.

During my first competition as a freshman, we were competing against one of the top teams in our league.   After the other team shot, it became clear that although the competition was close, the other team would win. It was then revealed that a competitor on the other team made a mistake that would cause the other team to lose 200 points. This would cost the other team the match and allow our team to win. The other team’s coach asked our coach if his competitor could redo the two positions in which she made the error. Our coach then told our team captains that he would want them to make the decision. The captains went to discuss among themselves what to do. When they came back, they came to the conclusion that they would like to let the competitor on the other team redo her targets. They told us that even though she made a mistake that could have allowed us to win, it would be wrong of us to win like that under false pretenses. We all knew that the other team was slightly better than us, but we all knew that at the same time, we would want to win under our own merit, not due to a technical mishap.

This lesson has taught me that by treating our team and our teammates fairly, we can become better sportsmen, and in the end, this is more important than winning. Although our team captains made a choice that cost us the win, the choice they made allowed us to not win under false pretense and, ultimately, gave us the satisfaction that we competed fairly against a team we knew was better than us. Additionally, this gave us the motivation to work harder so that the following year, we would do better and beat the other team, which we did. The example our team leaders provided us allowed us to form a proper sportsmanship ethic. This sportsmanship ethic is important because when we become the team leaders in the future, we can model this behavior as our leaders did before us.

 

11th & 12th Grade Honorable Mention: Charlotte Youkilis, 11th grader at The Packer Collegiate Institute (Brooklyn)

Sportsmanship is reflected in my everyday life on so many levels, both on and off the field. Having the privilege to play sports for my entire life has taught me this, and, in turn, has shaped me into the person I am today. I have learned that playing a sport is about so much more than winning, and the experience of each game has given me more than I could ever imagine. Sportsmanship has taught me that numbers don’t define me; instead, I am defined by the way I act, the way I handle difficult situations, the way I help others. These are the things that allow me to set and achieve my goals in life.

You are never going to remember the number of games won or the number of games lost. Both in life and in sports, you will remember the journey; you will remember the encouragement that you got from your teammates in the bottom of the ninth when you stepped up to the plate, regardless of whether or not you scored the run. These are the things that transfer into life as you grow and learn. I take chances in life because I take chances on the field; I can handle loss and mistakes in life because I am forced to handle them on the field.

Most importantly, exemplifying good sportsmanship has allowed me to be a role model for my teammates. In a recent softball game, the opposing team had just enough players to put on the field, and one player was not wearing the proper uniform. The umpires and coaches had already discussed and agreed that, while the situation could technically call for their disqualification, we were all there to play the game. I noticed a lot of girls on my team, however, arguing that we shouldn’t let her play and that we should just take the win. As a captain, I stepped in and asked them if they would rather take the win by default or take the win because we played hard and deserved it. Then I told them that if the other team is the better team on the field today, then they deserve to win. My teammates realized that if they wanted to win, they needed to play for it, and that is exactly what they did – in the end, after a very close game, we won by one run.

The most important lesson that my teammates and I took out of that situation was that sportsmanship follows you off the field after every game – the other team thanked us for doing the right thing, and a few of my teammates came to me individually to thank me for encouraging them to earn their victory. Sportsmanship has taught me not just how to pick myself back up after I have fallen down, but also how to extend a hand to one in need – regardless of whose team they are playing for.

 

11th & 12th Grade Honorable Mention: Emily Hirtle, 11th grader at Stuyvesant HS (Manhattan)

As someone who has been an athlete practically since I could walk, I’ve experienced my share of both good and bad sportsmanship. From the beginning, sportsmanship has been important to me, but it has taken on a whole new meaning over the past few years.

Two years ago I started volunteering with special needs sports leagues, helping kids with various disabilities play soccer, basketball, and baseball. To these kids, sports are about much more than the score of the game. Sports are a way for them to succeed and feel good about themselves, but also to learn social skills. When they learn good sportsmanship, they learn to be considerate of other people, something that goes much farther than varsity athletes’ high fiving the other team at the end of a game.

One particular moment of good sportsmanship I witnessed was when the basketball team got tickets to a New York Liberty game, and was granted access to play on the court after the game. For all of the kids (as well as me), this was an incredibly exciting opportunity.

Once we got on the court, we split the kids up into two teams and started their game. Every one of them was playing as hard as he or she could – they all wanted to be able to say that they won a game at Madison Square Garden. Since we aim to take the emphasis off winning, we only loosely keep score, but it was clear that the game was very close. Towards the end of the game, one of the better players took the ball down the court and prepared to shoot, but he stopped. He walked over to another boy on his team, one who struggled a lot more than the other kids, and gave him the ball. This little boy was willing to give up a shot in very close game.

“Here,” he said, “you haven’t had a turn yet.”

When we have games in the league’s gym, it is common practice at the end of the game to give the kids who haven’t had a chance a few free shots, but usually it is adult-implemented and the kids are reluctant. This boy, however, did it on his own, and with pleasure. For any child, but especially one with a social disability, that is huge – it really shows consideration for someone else’s feelings, and an understanding that making someone else feel good is more important than winning.

The other boy took the shot, and missed, but his teammates got the ball to him again, the other team letting them do so and not guarding him, and he scored. The look on his face was priceless.

I had always thought that sportsmanship was something that stayed on the field, and was just about how you act towards the other team. These kids showed me that sportsmanship in fact comes from an internal, genuine consideration for others, something that extends beyond even the court at Madison Square Garden.

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