The statement “sports are an important context for the development of character” is true on the basis of character as being your own person and having your own personal opinions. Organized sports such as school sponsored teams help children build their characters. Whether these children achieve good characters, or what is considered by society as good character, is soley up to the individuals teaching the sport. What types of characteristics that sports promote will be discussed in this paper. This paper will also talk about what kinds of moral developments are promoted in pre-high school, high school, and college level sports.
After that this paper will look at a significant rejection or criticism of sports as a development of character. This criticism is that if competition itself is inherently immoral, competitive sports may express that inherent immorality as well. Competition by its very nature cannot satisfy legitimate ethical requirements. Character is built whether a person plays a sport or not. Yet playing sports develops a certain type of character. The characteristics that get noticed more often are selfishness, overly competitive, and aggressive.
The more helpful characteristics such as cooperative, disciplined, and self-driven, go unnoticed more often. Other virtues that sports promote are team working skills, leadership abilities, fast-clear thinking, and being able to make decisions under pressure. Bad sports experiences may lead to the opposite of the fore-mentioned virtues. Say for instance that a child is pressured into participating in a sport that they do not want to. This will change the child’s attitude toward that particular sport or even all sports in general. It will lead them to develop a negative view of sports.
It is all right for a person to think that facing athletic challenges develops good habits of character. To take that seriously we have to assume that character is not fully developed much earlier than the age of sports participation. An example of not having good character development would be when the child’s sports experience is one which winning is over emphasized and the character that is shown to them is screaming parents and coaches who lack self control (Freezell 205). Moral development is the maturity of a person’s grasp of the interpersonal rights and responsibilities that characterize human social life (Sheilds, Bredermeir 59).
Starting children in team sports at a young age teaches them to become part of a community. By the time they are in high school they will have learned all the basics of the sport, then the social skills begin to develop more. Numerous tests have been done on athletes from grade school to college level showing how playing sports have effected their moral development. In all the tests they have shown that athletes are more aggressive than non-athletes are, which is predictable considering that a person has to have a level of aggressiveness to compete in sports.
In another study, results were shown that children with less mature reasoning judged a significantly greater number of potentially injurious acts to be legitimate than the more mature children (Shields, Bredemeier 74). The interesting point made from this study was that the results from the children were parallel to those of the college athletes studied. Competition is immoral because competition involves selfishness. The criticism that the goal of all competition is enhancement of the position of one competitor at the expense of others shows that competition is selfish.
Since selfish concern for oneself at the expense of others is immoral, then competition is also immoral. Selfishness is often criticized, such as a basketball player is criticized for not passing the ball and thinking of themselves before their team. Yet competition in sports is ethically defensible when it is engaged in voluntarily as part of a mutual quest for excellence. If there were one thing that I would change would be the emphasis on winning. There is too much emphasis on winning at a young age for beginning athletes.
When children first start playing sports they should just be taught the basics about the sports. If they are taught that winning is everything they loose sight of the essentials of sports. They are not able to play to have fun they will only be playing to compete against each other. When children play sports it helps to develop their individual characters and moral beliefs. If I had not grown up playing sports I would be a different person than I am now. Sports have taught me to be self motivated and outgoing. Organized sports helped me to develop my character and helped me become my own person.