Atomic City Update: Sportsmanship remains important, even in the tough times

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By Phil Scherer

When you are competing in anything, there is nothing more important than sportsmanship. Whether you win or lose, you have to be able to look your opponent in the eye and tell them, “Good game.”

Everyone has the ability to be graceful, and appreciative of the opportunity to compete. It helps me determine who has strong character, because nothing reveals a person’s true colors like how they act after a competition. 

The people who will get ahead in life are the graceful winners, and especially the graceful losers, who are able to set aside whatever hurt they may be feeling to congratulate an opponent. 

In the last week, I have seen a few acts that directly contradict the New Mexico Activities Association’s motto, “Compete with Class.”

At the state wrestling tournament, one of Los Alamos High School’s wrestlers was defeated by a wrestler from Los Lunas High School. The competitors were completely cordial, and LAHS’ wrestler handled defeat with lots of class. 

After the match, one of the LAHS coaches was trying to encourage his wrestler and tell him how well he had done. The coach from Los Lunas overheard this, and began yelling at the LAHS coach about the match, and how he felt LAHS’ wrestler didn’t fight fair. It was a ridiculous accusation, and the Hilltopper coach rightly defended his wrestler. 

Los Lunas’ coach continued to yell, to the point that security had to intervene and break up the confrontation. 

What kind of message does that send to the kids competing? His wrestler had just won, and instead of gracefully walking away from the mat, he decided to berate a young man who had just been defeated. 

It was completely ridiculous, and a terrible thing for any role model to do. 

How can we expect high school athletes to conduct themselves with class and grace if the coaches tasked with training them can’t uphold the same standards?

Then, Tuesday night at Pojoaque High School, I saw another ridiculous display, this time from a high school athlete. 

In the quarterfinals of the district tournament, the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team defeated Pojoaque Valley High School 47-43. 

Throughout the game, both teams displayed great sportsmanship and helped each other up when someone would fall. There were no dirty fouls and the referees helped move the game along at a quick pace. 

With the game well in hand, LAHS allowed Pojoaque to run down the court on the final possession and fire a last-second three-pointer. One of the Elks’ players made the shot at the buzzer, then immediately ripped his uniform off and ran directly into the locker room. 

He didn’t shake hands with his opponents, and we never saw him again the rest of the evening. 

I understand that, as a senior, that was his final high school game and that is upsetting. But as a senior, it’s his responsibility to set a good example for the younger players. 

That is the opposite of what he did. He showed complete disrespect and disregard for his teammates and opponents. He abandoned his team in the final moments they had together, and wouldn’t congratulate his opponents on a hard-fought game. 

Everyone has the ability to be a good sport, and stay levelheaded, through the good times and the bad times. It is everyone’s responsibility to uphold that standard. 

That includes the coaches, the star players and the last kid on the bench. 

Being a good sport is something everyone is capable of, and something everyone has to do. It really is not difficult at all to just compete with class.