Letters to the College Athlete: How do you treat your OPPONENT?

Photo: Don Voaklander
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Letters to the College Athlete: How do you treat your OPPONENT?
By Geraline L. Handsome

Without opponents, there would be no sports. As a college athlete, you are going to have to make honoring and respecting people an integral part of your identity. This includes your opponents. Your actions towards them have an effect on the competition. Also, how you treat your opponents reflect on who you are as a person, and it is representative of what is accepted by the school and the organization for whom you play for.

“Number 4 and number 15, you two better stop it!” We were warned by the referee.

She pushed me. I pushed her back.

She was not getting that ball, not if I could help it. She tried to elbow me in the face, but I ducked.

“You yellow b***h!”


As I was coming down with the rebound, I swung my elbows in a side to side motion, trying to land a blow on some part of number 15’s body. Dawg gone! I didn’t get her!

We beat them.

After the game, she and I didn’t shake hands nor congratulate each other on playing a great game.

These were not the actions of athletes who honored and respected each other, their school, or the sport. The inappropriate body contact, along with the name calling showed devaluing or a lack of respect for each other, and not congratulating each other at the end of the game showed a lack of honor between us.

This type of behavior distracts from the true purpose of competition.

An environment where athletes are honoring and respecting each other is one with minimal chaos. Athletes exercising these concepts bring a positive image to themselves, their school, and the sport because their actions and behavior support a competition where everyone, including fans, can feel comfortable and confident of their safety along with enjoyment of watching and participating in the sport.

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Respecting and honoring your opponents helps to keep the focus of the sport on the competing aspect. It strengthens the integrity of the competition by helping to reduce activities that distracts from the main purpose of competition in sports- to see who’s the best and entertain.

Opponents are an important part of competition. I encourage you to show honor and respect to your opponents by exercising sportsmanlike behavior towards them. Begin by avoiding the usage of profanity and name calling toward them, and avoid the usage of inappropriate body contact. Congratulate them on a win and show appreciation for the opportunity to compete against them.

In sports, every effort should be made to create and sustain an environment that is peaceful but competitive. Honoring and respecting your opponent helps with this.

Do you see athletes not showing honor or respect to their opponents? How do you feel about it? Let me know at geralinelhandsome.com.

Geraline HandsomeAbout the Author: Geraline L. Handsome has developed a passion to help college athletes of team sports discover their identity. She is a former Women’s Basketball Player for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). There she earned a B.S. degree in chemistry/mathematics. She has a MBA from the University of Phoenix. She is an Environmental Scientist and the mother of two. She is also the author of the book Sins of One Woman’s Mind.

Geraline L. Handsome is currently developing Creating the Super Athlete, a product designed to help coaches help their athletes discover their identity so that they will be able to perform better in their sport, in the classroom, and in public. It is expected to be completed in 2017. Visit her website Athlete’s Voice to Integrity at geralinelhandsome.com. Like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/geralinelhandsome/

Photo Credit: Don Voaklander

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