A day to promote good sportsmanship across the USA

Today is National Sportsmanship Day, a celebration of what’s right with sports. This is the 20th annual event as administered by the Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island.

NSD theme — Competitive Self-Restraint. The theme is taken from NSD founder Dan Doyle’s highly acclaimed The Encyclopedia of Sports Parenting. Competitive self-restraint means competing hard but maintaining one’s self-control and playing within the rules.

As part of the celebration, students from elementary, middle and high schools, as well as colleges and universities, were invited to write essays of 500 words or less which address a sportsmanship theme.

The Institute estimates that around 15,000 schools will recognize Sportsmanship Day in some way.

INTERNATIONAL SPORT: National Sportsmanship Day

COLLEGES: Christopher Toffoli, sophomore, Vassar College

Fighting in Sports:

Players in today’s sports-centered world are being driven towards labels. Kids are fit into physical requirements to play certain roles on teams: the tall strong all-star, the short, quick offensive player and the lumbering enforcer. As early as 7th grade, coaches tell larger players to concentrate more on “protection” and less about the finer aspects of the game. Kids learn that the only way to make it to the next level is to protect the skill players and throw down the gloves, stick, ball, etc and fight.

The business side of many sports, at all levels, is trying to reach a broader viewership and sports fighters are idolized. Tie Domi and Geoff Snider are household names in their respective sports of hockey and lacrosse. They are known more for their enforcement skills than skillful play. Where is the grace and skill in blindsiding a player on the other team? It takes away from the actual game.

The problem is that with sports being a business and fighting making money it seems that there is no way to stop the fighting. Although there are probably people willing to boycott a sport due to violence and fighting, most fans are not willing to give up the sport they love watching.

And, as long as there is a spot on the team as a fighter a young kid dreaming of the Division I hockey or even the National Hockey League, will work hard to fill that role. It is a simple case of the trickle down effect: where sport owners like the NHL do not realize the adverse impact on young kids coming up through programs throughout the world.

What needs to happen are harsher penalties for fighting. Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks, sucker punches Steve Moore in 2006, breaking three of his vertebrae and ending his professional career. For this he was only suspended for a year and was given 80 hours of community service. There is no room in sports for this type of behavior and it shows that the leagues themselves will not be the ones to stop it.

If nearly paralyzing a man and ending not only his dreams but his livelihood, is only a year off then there seems to be no hope of an end to fighting. How about a penalty that lasts as long as the injury? Or a fine that coincides with the salary the injured player would have earned.

We must make our voices heard: speaking out against the violence that has polluted many of our great sports. Fans must take a stand before the game beloved by so many is lost under a veil of violence.

USA Today