Stephen Berger | @sberger13
Since there are many things that come to mind when we hear the word “sportsmanship,” I recently asked a few MLL and U.S. National Team players what they the word means to them. Unsurprisingly, each guy had his own definition and perspective.
A few of them mentioned behaviors that they did or didn’t consider sportsmanlike that they had either personally experienced or witnessed.
Collectively, they all alluded to a similar theme, which can be summarized by two words — CLASS and RESPECT. These words were referenced by all the players as being central to their understanding of sportsmanship.
Similarly, throughout my experience in lacrosse, I have been taught that playing with class and respect on the lacrosse field is critical. But what do these words mean?
I believe that “class” can be summarized as playing the game honestly, fairly and within the rules. Class means not talking trash to your opponent or running your mouth to the official, coaches or parents. Class means competing as hard as you can.
I believe “respect” means showing positive support for those on your team, as well as to your opponents. Respect is appreciating the opportunity to play the fastest game on two feet and respecting those that gave you the opportunity to participate. Respect is shaking hands after the game with your opponent, the officials and opposing coaches—win or lose.
Sadly, I have had my fair share of sportsmanship slip-ups. Sometimes, my emotions have gotten the best of me. But, one thing I have always done as a player is to try to learn from my mistakes, from those times when I talked back to a coach or official, or fouled a player by being too aggressive, or carried a bad attitude after a loss. It has always been my goal to to do better the next time.
As an active player in Major League Lacrosse and as a past member of the U.S. National Team, I understand there are a lot of eyes watching me. I consider myself a role model in the game I love. Therefore, I want to show as much class and respect as I can and I also want to preach it and teach it. It’s one of my core values as a person, and as a player.
One of the most recent examples I have seen of players showing good sportsmanship through class and respect was at the Champion Challenge last month in Orlando. The women’s team was coming off a World Cup gold medal run last summer and the men’s team was narrowing down from 50 to 30 players to finalize its roster for the World Championship this summer. Throughout the course of the event, which included two nationally televised games, all of the players and coaches involved demonstrated incredible acts of sportsmanship. They all truly represented, in my opinion, what it means to be a member of Team USA.
Both teams also showed their support for the US Lacrosse “Compete with Class, Honor the Game” sportsmanship initiative by coming together after each game for public displays of support.
As further evidence, I also encourage you to read the open letter that was posted by a parent who attended the Champion Challenge with her son. The letter says it all, and serves as a reminder of the impact that Team USA players can have by displaying class and respect.
We hope that, in the coming months, as we share more information about our efforts to enhance sportsmanship in lacrosse, you’ll also make the same commitment to Compete with Class and Honor the Game that these world-class players have made.
Stephen Berger is the men’s game director at US Lacrosse, and currently plays for the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse.
Photo Credit: Scott McCall
Read more about the US Lacrosse “Compete with Class, Honor the Game” sportsmanship initiative, including ways you can help. You can also share examples of good sportsmanship on Twitter using hashtag #CompeteWithClass.