TAKE 5 with USA Wrestling's Erin Tomeo

4/30/2014

Youth Sports Article TAKE 5 Good Sportsmanship

USA Wrestling Erin Tomeo interview on good sportsmanship

There’s nothing like the elated feeling your children get after winning a game they’ve practiced for day and night. But that good feeling can quickly dissipate when faced with bad sportsmanship.

Youth sports are a great opportunity for kids to build self-esteem and learn the essentials of playing a game. But it’s also an opportunity for parents and coaches to teach the importance of good sportsmanship. While parents cheer for their kids on the sidelines, it’s also imperative for them to be positive role models and strong examples of what it means to be a good sport.

Our kids look to their role models, and when adults and athletes have a win-at-all-cost mentality, it can ruin the game and bring out the worst in everyone.

In this month’s TAKE 5 series, we sat down with some of the world’s top athletes and coaches to get their take on what good sportsmanship means to them.



Erin Tomeo

Erin went into coaching, following a successful career as an athlete on the US National Wrestling Team. She is currently the assistant women's coach for the national team.

1. What's the state of sportsmanship in wrestling today?

Sportsmanship is alive and well in the sport of wrestling, as it has always been. The worldwide movement to save wrestling in the Olympic Games united the world and has helped to elevate the level of sportsmanship in wrestling.  Competitors from rival nations both on and off the wrestling mat have shown genuine goodwill towards one another, leaving the fight on the mat.  At the 2014 World Cup in L.A., Russian faced Ukraine, while Team USA took on Russia.  Despite political differences between their governments, the teams embraced one another prior to the matches by shaking hand and exchanging gifts in the center of the mat.

2. What specifically do you do to display good sportsmanship?

Sportsmanship is alive and well in the sport of wrestling, as it has always been. The worldwide movement to save wrestling in the Olympic Games united the world and has helped to elevate the level of sportsmanship in wrestling.  Competitors from rival nations both on and off the wrestling mat have shown genuine goodwill towards one another, leaving the fight on the mat.  At the 2014 World Cup in L.A., Russian faced Ukraine, while Team USA took on Russia.  Despite political differences between their governments, the teams embraced one another prior to the matches by shaking hand and exchanging gifts in the center of the mat.

3. During your wrestling career, what's one example of an opponent displaying good sportsmanship?

In our sport, wrestlers know how much hard work and dedication goes into being a top level athlete.  It is not uncommon for wrestlers to help their opponent up after a hard fought match.  Wrestlers always shake hands before and after each match.  The hand shaking is also extended to coaches and referees.  I have also seen and been a part of many joint training camps where strong bonds and mutual respect is developed between athletes from opposing nations.  Wrestlers from different countries or clubs have even been known to warm up with one another prior to a competition.

4. What can coaches do to promote good sportsmanship?

Setting a good example is the best way in my opinion to promote good sportsmanship as a coach.  Coaches should also discuss directly with athletes and parents concerning expectations as part of the team.  Some expectations I have for the Women’s National Team include being professional at all times; remembering that you represent more than yourself (club, school, state, country); respecting coaches, athletes, officials, fans, and the entire wrestling community.

5. What is the number one thing athletes in wrestling could do to improve sportsmanship in our sport?

Wrestling is an intense sport – it can be difficult to control your emotions in the heat of battle.  It is important as an athlete to release these emotions after exiting the competition area.  Competing fairly within the rules as both an athlete and a coach needs to be emphasized more in our sport.  The “win at all costs” attitude is a dangerous one, especially at the younger age levels.  Coaches and parents need to remember to balance development, love for the sport, and winning as part of a successful formula to develop our athletes on and off the mat.

Come back next month for another exclusive TAKE 5 Interview.


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