Sports teach teamwork. Sports teach sportsmanship.
First of all, really? Because what I see is a lot of growling and posturing. Oh sure, an effective team has to work together, but isn't there also a bunch of trash talk and intimidation? What is the locker room talk like? Is there any bullying of the weaker members of the team or of the kids who aren't on the team?
But more importantly, and more to the point of this writing, why are we depending on sports to teach teamwork and sportsmanship? If we do, aren't we leaving a lot of people out? When does the rest of the population learn how to work with a team or how to lose and win?
I opine that we should more consciously spread that responsibility beyond the coach and put it into regular classrooms. My primary responsibility is not to teach reading and writing, math and science, or even history, but to teach my students to think for themselves, work with other people (even with people who are different), listen to people with whom they disagree, and respect people who do not show respect. Just for kicks, let's say that all of this belongs under the umbrella term of citizenship.
How about teaching respect outright? How about explicitly teaching how to greet other people? What about teaching students how to ask questions to show interest in other people? What about teaching the steps of responsibility without beating around the bush? How about integrating these so-called soft skills into every period of the day, not implicitly on the back burner, but right up front? We can no longer afford to hide these skills in the weight room, on the court or the field. No longer can we sneak these skills into the huddle. No longer should we allow our referees to clean up the mess of unsportsmanlike behavior.