The Psychology Behind Sportsmanship

The Psychology Behind Sportsmanship

Virat Kohli and Babar Azam

During a sports event, the ethical behavior shown by athletes and spectators is called sportsmanship. Fairness, respect, and integrity are the qualities that when combined, contribute to good sportsmanship.

Psychological Factors contributing to sportsmanship

There are a number of psychological factors that can contribute to sportsmanship. These include:

  • Morality: Athletes with strong moral values display good sportsmanship as they can reason out right and wrong, hence they are motivated to act in a fair and respectable manner.
  • Self-efficacy: Athletes who are confident enough to believe in their own abilities are good sportsmen as they don’t feel nervous or threatened by their opponents.
  • Self-esteem: Athletes who have high self-esteem are good sportsmen as they try their best to win at all cost
  • Role model and Inspiring: They are often role models for people irrespective of age and their behavior plays an important role in impacting how the population perceive the idea of sportsmanship. They also tend to inspire young minds.

Winning is not always the main goal of any sport. Often, small yet powerful gestures of sportsmanship that come out of nowhere, crossing all the barriers is the one that truly touches the heart and inspires everyone to remember humanity. Cricket, is considered a gentleman’s game as it has, witnessed many incidents where results took a back seat and the sport emerged as the winner.

One of the best and most recent examples of good sportsmanship is from the Cricket World Cup – 2023:

The Captain, of one team showed great sportsmanship. He even gifted his bat to an opposition team player. This good sportsmanship displayed at the Cricket World Cup is a reminder that sport can be used to create a positive and inclusive environment for everyone who is involved.
In 2018, another gesture of good sportsmanship was seen when the opposition team was called out by the winning team during the post-match presentation ceremony to pose with the trophy for a photo.

Importance of Sportsmanship

There are many reasons behind the importance of sportsmanship. First, it is required to ensure that a particular sport is fair and one does have an enjoyable experience involved. Athletes who engage in unsportsmanlike behavior, need to understand that, their actions can ruin the experience for their teammates, opponents, and spectators as well.

Second, sportsmanship also teaches young people unforgettable valuable homework that relates to fairness, respect, and integrity. These lessons are very important not only in the sports world but also in daily life.

Third, sportsmanship also helps to promote goodwill and acts as an initiative to learn from different cultures. When athletes from different countries compete against each other in a respectable and fair manner, it helps to build bridges between cultures and promote peace and understanding, which is required to set an honorable example.

Problems related to mental health

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine listed nearly 14 common mental health problems that people in sports face, which include: personality issues (athletic identity /traits); sexuality and gender issues; hazing; bullying; sexual misconduct; transitioning from sport; psychological response to injury and illness; self-medication in response to injury/illness; eating disorder/disordered eating; depression and suicide; anxiety/stress; over-training; sleep; and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) etc.

Those athletes who are under pressure to win are more likely to engage in unethical behavior as they might feel that they need to win at whatever cost, even if it means bending the rules. They experience similar problems as the general population, such as anxiety, depression, sleep issues, eating disorders, and substance use, which is the issue of primary concern.

Stigmas in Athlete Mental Health

Various problems related to mental health include training schedule, being away from family, injury, lack of retirement planning, levels of athletic identity, education level, post-sport unemployment, chronic pain, past counseling experiences, and racial or cultural differences. Athletes seek help less often than the general population (the idea of the “strong, winning athlete” contrasts with the image of a “weak, depressed person.” Athletes who are often surrounded by a positive social support network are more likely to display good sportsmanship. This is because they are more likely to have a strong moral background and to be surrounded by people who value fairness and respect.

Youth athletes also experience some significant stigma which is related to mental health and have negative attitudes towards asking for help, sometimes due to fear of losing their spot on the team.


There are a number of things that can be done to promote sportsmanship, including:

  • Educating athletes about the importance of sportsmanship and the negative consequences of their unethical actions.
  • Providing athletes with positive role models who display good sportsmanship.
  • Creating a culture within the sporting community.
  • Rewarding athletes for their hard

Coaches are also expected to be responsible for the physical and emotional well-being of players and researchers have identified that these barriers can be addressed effectively. For example, mental health concerns, lack of knowledge about the subject, and repeated exposure to stress (player performance, criticism, organizational demands). Coaches are required to design and deliver programming to facilitate improved individual and team performance. By taking these steps, we can help to create a more sportsmanlike sporting world.

Sportsmanship is an important part of sport. It helps to ensure that everyone related to that sport has a fair and enjoyable experience. Also, it teaches young people valuable lessons about fairness, respect, and integrity. We should all try to adhere to displaying good sportsmanship, both on and off the field.

Read More Articles:

Leave feedback about this

  • Rating