Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gold Medal Sportsmanship: Alicia Sacramone

Good leadership is like good sportsmanship. One of the most important lessons to be learned in victory and defeat is the need to be gracious, win or lose.

Alicia Sacramone's performance on the balance beam in Beijing presented a great test of her sportsmanship and leadership abilities, particularly after the competition ended.

The captain and her teammates on the US Women's Gymnastics team have endured more pressure from the distractions created by international politics than any other team thus far in the Beijing Olympics. With a few exceptions, commentators seem unwilling to acknowledge the impact of these matters on the athletes.

China was honored with the torch. They have succeeded in grabbing the world's attention with spectacular displays. Carrying the torch involves responsibilities as well, including advancing the principles of good sportsmanship.

Sportsmanship is about more than the outcome of the game. It's also about how the game is played, under what conditions, and how coaches and athletes choose to respond. When the emphasis of coaches, athletes, parents, officials, fans or the media is focused on winning at the expense of everything else, there is nothing of value left to be learned when a team does not get the top prize. Nor is there much of lasting value to achievements gained on an uneven playing field.

Good coaches ensure that the right lessons are learned so that athletes can perform better the next time. Others, including the media, play a role in either supporting these learning opportunities or hindering them, not just for the athletes but for all who are observing. In that regard, they're carrying the Olympic torch as well.

Under such scrutiny, athletes who maintain their composure and behave with dignity in spite of a loss, under conditions beyond their control, are to be commended.

For all those involved in influencing youth, the Olympic games, and these circumstances specifically, present teachable moments about good sportsmanship. These lessons translate into other life circumstances. Similar circumstances may be encountered in the workplace and in relationships with others.

In sportsmanship and leadership, Alicia Sacramone gave a gold medal performance.

Note: Alicia's interview with Andrea Joyce following her performance is here. If you use Mozilla and have problems accessing it, try opening it in Internet Explorer.

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