Sportsmanship is key, even on social media

October 1, 2017 /
Sometimes it’s the little things: Helping an opponent up after a hard tackle, standing in line to shake hands at the end of the game, thanking the referees for their work.

But sometimes, sportsmanship extends far beyond the playing field.

“Football is a vehicle to teach young men how to be good young men,” said Matt Dennison, president of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association. “Sportsmanship is paramount in everything that we do as football coaches.”

Dennison is a first-year athletic director at New Philadelphia High School, 20 miles south of Canton, Ohio, and head football coach in the middle of this 15th season.

“Sportsmanship is at the top, or near the top, of the list of importance for most football coaches,” he said. “If kids know how to behave in good times and while dealing with adversity, they’re able to better navigate through different situations they will face on the field and in life.”

It’s a basic principle.

“We teach our kids to play as hard as they can from whistle to whistle,” Dennison said. They pride themselves on playing like sportsmen and avoiding personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

But at New Philadelphia High School, it doesn’t stop there.

“I think the biggest challenge we face in today’s world is related to social media, especially pre- and post-game,” he said. “We teach our athletes to treat people with respect, online and offline.”

Dennison’s social media policy is simple. If you would be embarrassed if your parents or grandparents read your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram post, you shouldn’t post it.

His staff reminds players that as soon as you publish something, it’s living and breathing online. You can’t take it back.

“Lou Holtz said it best when he said ‘Do right,’” Dennison added. “That’s our rule when it comes to social media. Do right.”

If Dennison and his athletes continue to do right, sportsmanship won’t be a problem.

Here are more quotes to encourage your athletes to be better sportsmen.

“Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.” — Mike Ditka

“Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble.” — John Madden

“If you win, say nothing. When you lose, say less.” — Paul Brown

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” — Lou Holtz

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