Winning Essays Celebrate Sportsmanship March 1 marks the 15th National Sportsmanship Day across the USA. The even, started by the Institute for International Sport, raises awareness about fair play, sportsmanship and ethics in athletics and society. In the spirit of sportsmanship, more than 12,000 students at all levels—elementary, middle and high school and college—were asked: Do you dare to play fair? Nearly 1,000 essays were submitted addressing sportsmanship and ethics or offering a personal reflection on good or poor sportsmanship. A panel of judges chose the four winners. High School Winner: Tara Walker, age 18 Senior at Idaho Falls High School in Idaho Falls, Idaho With each successive year, the importance placed on integrity within society becomes less and less. Instead of failing with honor, people place a higher value on success-‐ no matter the means for achieving it. The human race has forgotten that the worth of a life lived lies in the integrity of that life. Today, numerous amounts of people contrive dishonest ways to accomplish even the tritest. Within schools students can't find the capacity to use their own minds to complete assignments and tests. We are only cheating ourselves when we are dishonest. A couple of years ago I had an experience that has caused me to reflect often on my own personal integrity. It was my eighth grade season of volleyball. My team was predicted to place second in the district tournament. We had worked hard in learning to play together. All of us had memorized the plays our coach had taught and we were eagerly awaiting the upcoming matches. I felt confident in us and knew that we could be successful. My parents have always taught my brother, sisters, and I to be honest — even if it meant sacrificing things we cherished. Honesty had become a very important principal to me. It was ingrained into my character and without thinking it became a part of my day-‐to-‐day decisions. The day of the big district games arrived. Excitement crackled through the gym in anticipation of the final outcome. My team would play the number one seeded team to see where we would be placed for the tournament play. The game began with an intensity we girls had not yet experienced. It was a close match and towards the end of the third game my team got sloppy. An error was made. The ball appeared to have gone outside the antennae before landing on the opposing team's side. The girls on my team argued that it had not and that the ball was ours. The referee looked to the line judge for the final decision. She looked nervous but agreed that the ball had been inside the antennae. We cheered heartily but my heart sank. From where I had been standing on the court, I had seen the ball graze the antennae on its outer side. I knew that the referee's call had not been fair. For a moment I disregarded the thought, but, my conscience pricked me again and my decision became apparent. I left my team and walked to the ref. She leaned down from her stand and I told her
what I'd seen. She thanked me for my honesty, blew the whistle and gave the ball to our opponents. We lost that match, but I gained something greater. At first, the girls on my team were angry with what I had done but later some of them thanked me for my honesty. That day we placed second in districts. It wasn't first, but the lesson I learned was far more important.