Towering Pines Blog

How to Be a Good Sport

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A mighty regatta can test the attitude of even the heartiest of sailors

We’ve already discussed the importance of a little friendly competition here at camp, but we haven’t really talked much about the role of sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is a respect for the rules of the game and a respect for those who play it. Sportsmanship creates the environment in which competition can be productive. Competition must be tempered with sportsmanship.

IMG_5027I remember when I was a camper there was nothing I cared more about than sailrace. Getting the Skipper of the Year award was one of my highest goals for the summer. I competed like a man possessed and I was good at it. But I wasn’t a very good sport and I got into trouble. I would inadvertently create conflict on the water: barging, crowding people away from buoys, stealing others’ wind, and ignoring consequences when possible. I was a good sailor, but I was not a good sport. I won many races and I ruined many races, and I never did get Skipper of the Year. I learned a lot about myself because of that.

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Spoon assassins depends upon good sportsmanship and good competition.

One of our mottos here at TP is “Everybody plays, everybody wins.” Those aren’t just nice words to make losers feel better; that motto speaks to the value of participation itself, and also the value of losing.

IMG_5049Failure is all too often considered to be a negative thing, and it certainly can be; but when we don’t succeed we often learn more than if we had. As a culture, we Americans dismiss failure as something that detracts from greatness, rather than contributing to and shaping greatness. Some things need to be done wrong a few times before they can be done right. There is so much to be learned in failure: humility, planning, critical thinking, and grace.

That doesn’t mean that we should strive for failure, but it does mean that we should strive to appreciate the activity, free from the outcome. This is what sportsmanship means to me.

I was ashamed when I didn’t earn skipper of the year, but it obviously stuck with me. I had been focusing on the outcome and not the activities that led to it, and that was why I failed. That was a valuable lesson for me, more valuable than earning another skipper star. We need to aim for greatness, but accept failure as part of the process. This is what we stress as camp counselors. Everybody plays and everybody wins.


This fellow wasn’t a very good sport, even though I caught him fair and square.