Gamesmanship in sports is generally defined as the practice of winning games without actually violating rules. Unlike practices that clearly break rules (i.e. corking a baseball bat), questions around gamesmanship are not so “black and white,” and instead prompt coaches to make choices and decisions based on their own level of integrity and ethics. Gamesmanship is becoming a hot sport psychology topic these days, as questions around what’s good, bad, right, and wrong seem to be an everyday scenario anymore. This question becomes even more meaningful and pertinent in youth and interscholastic sports, when kids are still impressionable and learning life skills through sports.
Dr. James Strode takes a closer examination of the question of gamesmanship in a recent study, using an example of a basketball coach out of timeouts prompting one of his players to fake an injury in order to get an injury timeout. From a strategic standpoint this might sound like a smart move, but others will argue that this is a cheap move that takes advantage of a rule designed to truly help injured players — not coaches who previously used all of their timeouts.
The question of gamesmanship is a good one, as there are countless times and places in sports where a savvy coach can use the rules to his or her advantage. The question of whether a coach should take advantage of vaguely defined rules is an entirely different issue, however, and one that each coach will need to examine for him- or herself. Take for example the following scenarios:
- If an opposing football team is especially fast, should the coach wet down the field ahead of time to slow down the speed of the game?
- If a baseball coach has a team that is especially good at bunting, should he build up the dirt along the baselines so that more bunts stay fair?
- If a basketball team has an especially supportive and rowdy fan base, should the coach build up the seating directly behind the hoop to distract opponents while shooting free throws?
The issue of gamesmanship, like most issues, will have people on both sides of the argument. Some feel as though it’s important to play with integrity — even in situations where current rules have not caught up with scenarios like the ones I just described above. Others, however, will defend practices that give an unfair advantage and consider their moves as “strategic.”
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cheating, Coaching, gamesmanship, mental, psychology, rules, sport, sportsmanship, success, toughness, winning