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The Importance of Sportsmanship: 5 Keys to Success

Troxel Athlete, Rachel Gagliardi, is a member of the Central Pennsylvania Youth Rodeo Association competing in Barrel Racing, Pole Bending and Breakaway Roping. She is the current Reserve Champion in Breakaway Away Roping and loves everything about competition. Here, Rachel talks about what sportsmanship means to her and shares her top 5 keys to success.

We’ve all heard the words “be kind to others” and “treat others how you’d like to be treated,” but sometimes we lose touch with this rationale when it comes to riding in competition. To me, sportsmanship is a HUGE part of who I am and how I want to portray myself. I want to perform at my best and be a role model for others. For me, being a good sportsman comes in many forms. Whether it is wishing my competitors good luck before their runs, congratulating them on their successes, or showing respect to a judge, being a good sport means more than saying nice things. It’s about being genuine in supporting others and embracing a positive attitude. Rather than tearing others down, we should build each other up.

I have personally been the victim of poor sportsmanship. As a victim, I have to say that I believe it weakens the competition. When I compete, I want nothing less than a field full of great competitors who support each other, get along with each other, and keep the field even and honest. Often, sportsmanship is easily overlooked as an optional piece of the puzzle, but it’s one of my essential keys to success.

Growing up as a competitor in the Pennsylvania High School Rodeo Association and the Central Pennsylvania Youth Rodeo Association (CPYRA), a family run organization, taught me what healthy competition was about. As new members join, older members are always willing to offer advice and instruction. For me, that meant being afforded the opportunity to learn to tie a goat, being offered horses from competitors to use when mine have been injured, and returning the favor by providing advice and equipment to others. I believe the reason that the competition is enjoyable for all is a direct result of the family-like atmosphere and the importance that is placed on sportsmanship. Becoming a good sportsman is a goal we all should have. With that in mind, I have created a list of reminders to help us all be better sportsman.

  1. Win fair and lose fair. As much as we don’t enjoy coming in last place or going home without a ribbon, we can’t win all the time. I believe that it’s important for competitors to support each other through both their wins and losses. Trying to sabotage a competitor is just plain cheating. I encourage those who are frustrated enough that they are considering cheating to take a look at themselves and ask others for help to improve and become successful in a healthy manner.
  2. Celebrate your successes AND the success of others. We all know how great it feels when someone congratulates us on a job well done, and we should pass that feeling on to others too!
  3. Focus on positive critique rather than criticism. If someone asks you for your opinion on their performance, it’s okay to be honest but phrase it in a non-offensive way. Disparaging remarks do nothing to help others improve, but instead lower self-esteem. Take a moment to remind the individual of all the things they did well, and how they have improved while providing critique of things they may be able to work on.
  4. Respect the judges. Yelling at judges won’t change the outcome of the class, and has no benefits whatsoever. The judges are real people that can be offended by rude remarks. It’s important to remember that judges are trained and certified professionals. I have a tremendous amount of respect for their desire to memorize pages and pages of rules, so we as competitors can have successful competitions.
  5. Remember that it’s our personal performance that really matters. One of my favorite parts about competition is competing with myself. I am constantly challenging myself to work harder, learn more, and improve my skills. At the end of the day as long as you did your best, that’s all that really matters.

Do you have other tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!

  • January 28, 2016