Character: Does Sport Reveal it or Build it?

“Sport doesn’t build character. Sport reveals character” – Heywood Broun (paraphrased)

Dodgeball is different than most sports. Most sports have 1 ball which is the focal point of the game. Dodgeball has 6! This means 6 focal points. 6 balls to track and 6 potential situations occurring all at once. Due to this, dodgeball can be a very difficult game to ref. As such, the game relies very heavily on honesty and integrity.

Dodgeball is definitely a sport that can reveal character in people, however unlike Heywood Broun, I believe that character is something that can be fostered and developed as well. But building character takes work. It is a conscious effort, not something that happens all on its own. It must be an intentional effort to strive towards honesty, sportsmanship and integrity. This is true when we are winning and especially when we are losing. Being able to lose with grace and win with humility are traits that we should all be striving towards. This is true within all sports but especially true in a game like dodgeball that has so many centres of action and relies on “self-calls”.

In any game situation each player can always ask themselves, “How do I want to win”? Do I want to win above all costs? Do I want to win because I was strategic and outplayed the other team or do I want to win because I did not go out when I knew the ball hit me.

Every player has been in a situation where they were unsure if the ball hit them and if they are still in or not. Questions like, did it bounce? Did it hit the wall first? Or simply that you didn’t feel the hit. Although all these situations can arise, how people handle the situation is what truly matters! Being honest as a teammate and opponent makes the game of dodgeball run much smoother. Looking towards your team or the refs when you are unsure and going out if you are pretty sure it hit you, shows that you value fair play over simply winning. Whereas knowing the ball hit you and not going off because the ref didn’t see it fosters animosity.

Personally I think this is one of the biggest potential hurdles that dodgeball as a sport will face as it gains more popularity and moves towards a more competitive sport. Even with referees watching the game, it will still come down to players needing to be honest and call themselves out. The idea of staying on the court unless the ref calls you out is a flawed concept for the sport of dodgeball. This counterproductive attitude will only add hostility, anger and create an environment where reciprocal cheating will occur. Which can lead the sport towards its demise.

In the end we all have to look into ourselves and decide if we are going to use dodgeball as a way to build integrity and sportsmanship for the sake of ourselves and the sport, or if we are going to exploit the potential loopholes available in the sport for our own short-sighted gain.

I personally believe that being proud of how you played, both in terms of your physical performance as well as how you played the game is what defines success, not simply winning. Especially at the cost of integrity. I think that dodgeball can have tremendous value in fostering an honest competitive environment developing a large community of people with integrity.

“The truth of your character is expressed through the choice of your actions” Dr. Steve Maraboli

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