Manners Matter: Sportsmanship

Dear Mary Pat,

I am writing to you in the hopes that some of the people I am referring to in this letter will recognize and take a look at themselves. Here’s the story:

I am a middle-aged woman, and have always enjoyed and been pretty good at sports. I competed on many teams throughout high school and college and did pretty well. I always enjoyed the aspect of cheering other athletes on, and in response, feeling appreciated in return.

I was not able to take part in sports during the years I raised my children and ran a business. Several years ago, however, I joined a golf league and then started playing pickleball. Although I was not as skilled as most of the golfers, I did alright, and always tried to be supportive to my fellow golfers. When players do well, I genuinely feel happy for them. The same goes for pickleball – except for the fact that I have really excelled at this sport, and it seems to really annoy some of my fellow pickleball players, especially those who have played for more years than me. I should note that several of the ones who seem most annoyed are at least fifteen years older than me.

I recognize fear, lack of self-confidence and, of course, jealousy in these types. I just wish that people would support one another rather than try to tear each other down. I don’t know what sort of advice you can give me on how to handle this, but it sure makes me sad. And it makes me want to beat them.



Door County, Wis.


Dear Bobbie,

Every time I think that I’m surrounded by adults, I actually realize that I’m back in high school or kindergarten in some cases. I think you are right. It is most likely jealousy or insecurity on the part of some of these other players. And that is sad.

It sounds as though we need to brush up on some of the things we learned in kindergarten:

  1. Don’t ever compare yourself to someone else. You’ll come up short.
  2. When you lose, be a good sport and be gracious.
  3. Use your kind words. And mean them.
  4. Be happy for your friends.
  5. If you are tired or cranky, it might be time for a nap.
  6. We all have gifts and we all can’t be good at everything.

Competition is good and it can drive someone to do their best, as we are seeing with the Winter Olympics. However, some people let their competitive natures ruin what should be a fun sport. That is a big loss for them and for those around them.

Good luck,

Mary Pat

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