Beyond Athletics

It Started As Poor Sportmanship — And Then It Got Worse


Over at FloTrack they’re counting down the top 5 fails and I have to admit when I saw this one a chunk of my heart just sank.

The clip is back from the spring track and field season, from a steeplechase where Oregon’s Tanguy Pepiot thought he had it in the bag. Disappointed with the lackluster cheering from the stands, he tried to encourage more applause.

(On the other hand, Washington’s Meron Simon has an amazing kick that anyone who has run longer than a 200 absolutely envies.)

There are many types of poor sportsmanship

Have you ever heard that cliche: “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush?”


Look, I’m not here to lecture you about how you participate in your sport, or race, or event. But Tanguy’s devastating loss taught him a lesson — I’m sure of it. And we could all learn from it, as well:

It’s good sportsmanship to give it all you’ve got.

As the great runner Steve Prefontaine said, “To give less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” Whether it’s striding through the finish line, or defensemen pushing up when you’re down a field to support your attackers, or giving it everything you’ve got to chase down that runaway fumble, there are lots of opportunities to show your hustle. And for every opportunity you have to prove your mettle, you have an equal opportunity to show your coach, your parents, and college coaches who might end up watching video of this play, that you don’t give it everything you’ve got, every play.

To give less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

Poor sportsmanship isn’t just throwing tantrums.

I’m sure Tanguy felt terrible after his race. And I’m sure that his coach wasn’t too proud of him for losing those first place points for the team, either.

But even if he had won, we need to remember that we’re always on display. As Coach Enquist recently wrote, college coaches are watching us from the moment we step onto the field.

Absolutely we should celebrate our triumphs, and our teammates’ successes. But there’s a time and a place for it. And, as any football player could tell you, there’s only a certain amount of it that can be in good taste. (For some levity, here’s a compilation of touchdown celebration dances that are still allowed in the NFL.)

You don’t have to do anything to show poor sportsmanship.

To me, this is the most important one. Literally, doing nothing is showing poor sportsmanship.

What I mean is this: If you’re at the end of a game, win or lose, and you go through the motions of high-fiving your competitors, you aren’t showing good sportsmanship.

If you’re on the field, and you’re giving less than your best, you aren’t showing good sportsmanship.

If you’re on the couch, and you hear that little voice in your head telling you that you should be out with your stick tossing a ball against the wall, or that you should lace up and hit that awful hill near your parents’ house, or you should set out the cones and work on your agility, and you stay on the couch, you aren’t showing good sportsmanship. You aren’t doing anything bad, no – but that is doing something.

I really can’t say it better than Prefontaine. To give less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

(But seriously. I keep hitting repeat on that video and cringing.)

What kind of sportsmanship irks you? Or, on the other hand, what was a display of sportsmanship you were really proud to see – in your past, or from a teammate or competitor? Tell us about it.

We want to give you the tools to show college coaches your hustle and what makes you a great addition to their roster. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.