We often hear sports build character and while that may be true in case of some people, there are also cases that prove otherwise. In fact, I know this from personal experiences as part of high school soccer team as to how sports may sometimes bring out the worst in people. I blame this on both human nature as well as single-minded focus on win encouraged by different stakeholders such as coaches, parents, and school administration.
One particular soccer game against a rival school comes to mind when I think of examples that demonstrate how sports doesn’t always build character. This was no ordinary game since my school and the rival school had enjoyed decades-long historical rivalry. The huge size of audience only put more pressure on players in my team since it was our home ground. By the half-time, we were trailing the rival team by two goals.
As the coach convened a meeting during half-time, my team mates started blaming certain players in the team for poor performance and all this before the coach could say a single word. I was even more surprised by the fact that not a single player was willing to admit mistakes he made and instead blamed someone else for his own failures. Soccer is supposed to be a team game and here I was witnessing not an ounce of team spirit. Even if someone made mistake, he should have gotten support instead of fingers pointing at him.
But these negative aspects of sports were not evident during team meeting only. Even during the game, players from both teams intentionally committed fouls and tried to get away with it when the referees would not be watching. These acts included unwarranted pushing and fake falls. Similarly, strikers from my team wasted scoring opportunities because they tried to do it alone instead of making passes that would have significantly improve the prospects of a goal. Everyone wanted to prove he is the best in the team instead of working towards the common interests of the team.
Over the years I have also witnessed other incidents which show sports doesn’t always build character but this single game alone was a major proof. The game taught me sports may make us self-centered, may also cause us to engage in unethical conduct for as long as we can win, and hesitation to accept responsibility because it is convenient to blame someone.