Last year I worried about this very issue. The lack of sportsmanship in sports astounds me. I often wonder how much of it the average spectator notices. I think I may have developed a sensitivity to it during my coaching career.
I mean, I coached middle school girls’ soccer. Not exactly the pinnacle of the sports world, so I thought of it as the foundation. My first goal was sportsmanship and learning to be a team player. My second was fundamentals. My third was winning a game. We didn’t often score more goals than our opponents, but we consistently won the league’s sportsmanship award. I am more proud of those awards than any goal we ever scored. Like other strong coaches I admire, I used my sport as a vehicle to instill positive ideals into young people.
This weekend we take on Northwestern. The Wildcats have always seemed like a bit of a wildcard to me. Like a lot of Big Ten play, you can’t be quite sure what you’ll get in terms of challenging play. It’s probably a good idea to be on your toes no matter what their record. One worry we won’t have is sportsmanship.
Northwestern’s coach, Pat Fitzgerald, has made some very positive remarks regarding our program and players to the media recently. Describing our recent history he said, “That type of legacy and that kind of pride and what it means to be a part of a program is inspiring.” After the difficultly with our last conference match up, I’m excited to play a team whose coach shares our ideals.
Remember the greatest Penn State vs Northwestern game ever? A magical second-half come back for JoePa’s 400th win. I’ll never forget driving into State College and hearing the radio announcer say pre-game that a ticket to this game, the chance to see the 400th win, was like winning the lottery. We have a framed Center Daily Times hanging in our home depicting Joe on the shoulders of his players: “People ask me why I stay so long... Look around... Look around...”
This weekend is also homecoming. Sadly, I won’t be in attendance, but I hope you’ll take a moment to look around. Enjoy the legacy and the pride and what it means to be part of Penn State.
And then cheer your hearts out as we go 5-0! Go State! Beat the Wildcats!