• 73°

FC athletes demonstrate sportsmanship

What is sportsmanship?

We are always talking about it.

Parents want to instill it in their children. Children want to see their parents show it in the stands. Coaches teach it to their players. Players watch to see if the coach shows it during the game.

But what is it?

Every athlete and coach in the state of Alabama has to take a course on sportsmanship to be eligible to play or coach at the junior high to high school level. This is mandated by the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

The AHSAA gives awards to schools each year that show sportsmanship. But what are the rules of the game?

When one thinks of sportsmanship, it is what it is not.

It is not fighting. It is not coming off the bench or onto the playing field if a fight breaks out.

It is not yelling at or berating an official. It is not trash talking an opponent.

It is not gloating after a touchdown, dunk or home run.

But what is it?

The course the AHSAA requires, which is administered by the National Federation of High Schools, defines sportsmanship as “respect for one’s opponent; fairness and graciousness in winning or losing” – in other words, not what we see on Facebook on any given Saturday in the fall.

I accidentally caught a picture of sportsmanship Saturday at a cross-country event in Florence.

When I was going through my pictures, I noticed two runners running side by side. One was from Florence High School. The other was from Belgreen High School.

The picture shows the runner from Florence in some serious agony, while the runner from Belgreen – who I later found out was Canaan Stough – appears to have his arm around the runner from Florence.

I took this picture about a half mile from the finish line of a 3.2-mile race.

Chuck Simmons, Belgreen’s cross-country coach, informed me later about what had happened.

Canaan and fellow runner Cole King had helped the Florence runner up a couple of times when the young man had fallen. The boy’s father sent Simmons an email later in the day praising his young men.

The dad said his son “had an incident that caused him to pass out momentarily during the race.” He added, “One of your runners stopped during the race and assisted my son in getting back up. My son was able to finish the race, not well but finished.

“At the finish line, he dropped again and another one of your runners again helped him to his feet until I could get to him. While sitting in the recovery tent, two of the young men came and checked on him and spoke encouraging words to him.”

I’m not sure if the young men from Belgreen had a chance to win the race or not, but I do know this: They sacrificed their standings in the results to help a runner in distress.

They could have kept running and trying to win the race and let someone else deal with the other runner. They didn’t.

That made them winners in their own right. They didn’t know anyone was watching. They didn’t know there would be a picture. They didn’t know it would be in the paper.

They just did what came naturally.

In the words of the dad, “I was very impressed with the sportsmanship and genuine concern shown by these young men.”

That is what sportsmanship is!