Character Development or Winning at all Costs?
by Andy Rudd - February 20, 2007
It has long been held that participation in sport can build moral character. This is based on the belief that moral values (e.g., honesty, fairness, and respect) are the bedrock of competitive sport and as a result, participation in sport provides a unique medium for instilling moral character among its participants. However, paradoxically, there is an abundance of anecdotal and empirical evidence to suggest many athletes and coaches favor “winning at all costs” rather than competing with moral character. It is hypothesized that athletes and coaches have been socialized into believing that winning is paramount and competing with moral character is insignificant to getting the win. Because moral character involves critical judgment and reason it is suggested that typical interventions such as sportsmanship campaigns or stiffer penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct are ineffective for developing moral character. Athletes, coaches, athletic administrators, and even parents must be morally educated to appreciate the moral side of sport.
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