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League News: What Is Sportsmanship?

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ALTA Sunday Women
Photo: Laura Barnard

By Susan Levin, Sunday Women League Vice President

How many times as a child did our parents or teachers tell us “It’s important to be a good sport?” Then, as we become parents, teachers, or coaches, we in turn teach our children the importance of good sportsmanship.

But what is meant by sportsmanship? Here are a couple of definitions. As noted, the common behavior in almost every definition is fairness and respect toward the opposing players. Webster’s defines sportsmanship as “conduct (such as fairness, respect for one’s opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport.” The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “fair, generous, and polite behavior, especially when playing a sport or game.”

Regardless of why we play ALTA, whether it’s because we love the sport, the camaraderie, meeting new players, or a combination of all of these, we should exemplify good sportsmanship. ALTA not only encourages good sportsmanship, but expects it, as noted in our Adult Rules IV. Dual Meets I. We also encourage our guests and spectators to show courtesy and respect to the players on the court.

Our Sunday Women League comprises a great group of ladies, and the number of good sportsmanship stories I’ve received is uplifting. Being able to spend a Sunday afternoon playing a competitive match with a nice group of ladies is fun, and when it’s over, no matter who wins, there’s a friendly handshake or fist bump. Many of the good sportsmanship stories have been about captains and players who have gone over and above — truly the spirit of ALTA!

Numerous stories took place before the scheduled match occurred. It may have been a wedding, spring-school break, etc., that teams couldn’t provide a full lineup for the day of the match. Because the opposing teams were gracious and understanding, they went out of their way to cooperate to ensure some lines could play early. In a conversation, one of the captains said that her ladies play ALTA because they love tennis. They would much rather play, regardless of the match outcome, than to win by default. This gives all ladies a chance to play. And who knows, one day they may be in the same situation. Good behavior is often rewarded.

There are hundreds of stories about amazing long-term friendships that first started one Sunday afternoon when opponents faced each other in a grueling match, and now years later these former opponents are longtime friends.

Did you know that ALTA presents Sportsmanship Awards to teams and individuals that have demonstrated exemplary sportsmanship? Every season, there are players, captains, and teams that are nominated for a sportsmanship award by their opponents. If there are teams or players that you’ve played or worked with that exhibited exceptionally good sportsmanship, I encourage you to nominate them. You can send an email to your coordinator or submit the nomination form found in ALTA Documents on our website at altatennis.org.

In closing, I thought I would share a quote from Serena Williams that I came across during the process of writing this article: “The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous: be strong, be extremely kind, and above all be humble.”

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