What a change has occurred in sports. When we played sports, we were taught to abide by the rules of the game and to play to win as hard as we could, but to accept defeat honorably. Far from molding character, some competition destroys character. The win-at-all-costs philosophy, the willingness to do anything honorable or dishonorable to gain an advantage over an opponent, has become an accepted part of sports from the pee wee to the professional levels. The fall of Lance Armstrong is a perfect example.
In another time, coaches generally conducted themselves in such a way as to be a worthy example for young men to follow. Now coaches are sometimes the problem. Winning becomes so important that NCAA rules are violated to “buy” the best amateur athlete. There is even the scouting of players at the grade-school level by high schools. When they find a player they consider to be exceptional and he or she does not live in their school district, an offer is made to move the whole family into that district with housing and jobs provide if needed. All of this is legal, but is it ethical?
The spirit of winning at all costs has infected all levels of athletics. Organized sports is sometimes more interested in winning than in being a wholesome, enjoyable and fun activity that children do together. I have told my boys that if playing sports is not fun, then do not do it.
Sporting games and activities throughout the ages have given athletes and fans opportunities to demonstrate skills, highlight expertise, provide physical and emotional outlets and entertain. Although the number of participants in organized sports has increased, it’s becoming less to do with the fun and challenge of learning a new skill and more to do with a parent’s dream of a college scholarship, professional career, financial success and their own reputation.