THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
By Katelyn Mulligan
Chief Operating Officer
How many kids start playing golf because a parent or other adult has promised to let them drive the golf cart?
I was one of them.
Fast forward a few decades and you'll see I really enjoy playing, even though I’m not very good at it.
Years ago, I discovered my pharmaceutical employer had a golf league, the competitive equivalent of company softball with recorded statistics and official bragging rights at stake. As someone who was already playing softball for the company, I decided that adding one more activity was another way to play more rounds of golf and meet some colleagues.
I enjoyed playing in the golf league while it lasted. Ultimately, however, my colleagues who ran the league retired, leaving nobody interested in taking the reigns. After consultation with a different colleague, she and I decided we would reinvent the league as an informal club, complete with the same opportunities to play golf and enjoy colleague camaraderie without brackets and scoring. (After all, I didn’t understand how the scoring worked and didn’t want to take on that responsibility!)
Two years later in the present day, our new golf club (no pun intended) is a huge success. The number of people who have signed up skyrocketed to triple digits, far beyond the handful that kept the league alive. We give each other words of encouragement when a nice drive is hit, and we help each other look for a ball that’s lost in the rough. I hear no negative talk or snide comments (aside from the good-nature ribbing we naturally use). Instead, it's a plethora of positive camaraderie amongst colleagues, all of whom are wondering, once the round is over, when they get to do it again.
Now, I never witnessed any acts of poor sportsmanship while I was in the formal company golf league; however, now that it is less formal as a club, it’s reassuring to see so many people enjoying themselves and playing. No one seems to mind that we’re all at various skill levels; everyone knows the golf rules and playing etiquette, and that is enough. I don’t feel any worse than I normally do if my drive hooks and goes into the woods. It just affects my own individual score, not my team's ranking.
This poses a question regarding whether the league/club dynamic could be beneficial in other sports settings. What if children were mandated to participate in equal parts informal recreation and a competitive setting for their sports or competitive activities? Could this perhaps curtail acts of poor sportsmanship? Developing a child's ability to understand when to "turn it on" for a more serious competition could influence positive change.
This template has been applied before with mixed results. Kids who want to participate in their town's competitive summer baseball program, for example, are required to participate in the spring recreational league that correlates. However, the same kids might feel no remorse about skipping a less important game in the spring, as opposed to a more serious game in the summer. Further, many parents cannot understand that, regardless of the competitive level, it's just a game and no the end of the world. Understanding the delicate balance between playing to win the competition but not at the expense of maturity and good sportsmanship is quite difficult. If only the positive vibes could be bottled by my pharmaceutical company and distributed to everyone involved in competitive sports.
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.