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by Jesse Starling

Competitive sport, it’s a global phenomenon. Whether you’re an athlete yourself, or just a spectator, sport has the ability to pull on everyone’s heart strings. It can make you feel all kinds of emotions including passion, nervousness and joy. Sport is a journey and we do it for the thrill of it. Millions of people around the world pour their heart and soul into a sport of their choice. We live for the feeling of winning, it’s addictive. However, whether you’re a competitor yourself, a coach, or a spectator, everyone has felt the feeling of loss. Nonetheless, losing is the most important part of sport, as the saying goes, “it’s when we lose we learn and grow”. 

However, it takes a good sportsman to know how to both win and lose gracefully, so here we give to you, our opinion on what we think it takes to be a good sportsman. 

Nyxie Ryan @ Narrabeen pic: Ethan Smith


Let’s start off with losing. In any sport more often than not you will lose more than you win. Think about some of the greatest sportsmen of all time, for example, Michael Jordan, Mick Fanning or Ash Barty, just to name a few. All of these athletes didn’t start at the top, they lost, they got knocked down, they fell and they missed their shot many times before they became a master of their sport. Something really important to remember is that losing is a good thing. Everytime you lose, you grow from it. if you analyse your performance you can look back at it and take something from it. Find something you didn’t accomplish and find something you did, take it, learn from it and grow from it, so that next time you compete you can apply these new skills into your repertoire to see if it helps you perform better next time. 

Tip for this: It is really handy to have a post heat/event diary, where you can have a record of all of your previous heats, write down the conditions, who was in your heat, total heat score, wave scores, wave count, outcome and brief overview of how your heat went and remember… be honest. Then write down things you did well and things you can improve on. This really helps as you can look back at your past heats and see what worked for you and what didn’t all in this one little book. 

Kobie Enright front side hack pic: Unknown


One of the most important parts of being a great sportsman is learning how to lose gracefully. Now you’re probably thinking, how can you lose gracefully? Well, first off always leave it in the water. Sometimes you have those heats, where you cannot put a foot right the entire heat, or you might have a heat where you’ve been winning the entire time and someone gets the score in the last minutes or has to pull their priority on you to stop you from getting the score, no matter what just leave it in the water. What we mean by this is, once a heat is over, there’s really no need to bring it back up again in any circumstance. But more importantly than that, always come in smiling at the end of a heat and ALWAYS acknowledge the other competitors no matter how angry, sad or defeated you are. Shaking your opponent’s hand is the most important part of being a good sportsman. 

Super Grom with her super winning smile. Pic: Surfing NSW


Now for the winning part. Ahhh winning, isn’t it just the best feeling. The feeling that all those losses, hard times, and training sessions have finally paid off. This is the feeling that makes it all worth it in a competitor’s eyes. However, as awesome as winning is and as awesome as it feels it is also just as important to remember to be humble. The most important part of being humble is to acknowledge the other competitors and everyone who helped you to get there! Before the celebrations begin make sure you show your opponents and your team the proper respect they deserve before anyone else as they have been a part of your journey to get to the top. Acknowledging your opponents is crucial as out of all people you will be able to understand how your opponent will be feeling after their loss. Not only does this show that you respect all the other competitors, it also shows that you respect the sport and everyone who has been a part of it. You’ll also inspire other competitors to act the same way. If you can achieve this, you’ve become an inspiration in the eyes of so many.   

Champs Supporting Champs, Stephanie Gilmore, Tatiana Weston Webb, Felipe Toledo and Jordy Smith pic: World Surf League

So there you have it, our 3 main tips on what it takes to be a good sportsman. Now we know that competing is so hard, especially when you’re a surfer. You aren’t only competing against the other girls in the water however, you’re competing against mother nature and the clock as well. It truly is a hard sport, however, no matter what sport you compete in, learning to be a good sportsman is the most important part of being an athlete. We are so blessed to be able to compete in a sport we love, don’t abuse the privilege. Hope this helps anyone out there, and if you have any other tips on how to be a good sportsman, please leave it in the comment section below. Go chase your dreams!


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