Competitive behavior in sports is a central factor of the game. This could lead to greater motivation, team cohesion as well as higher levels of passion for the activity.

Unfortunately, in some situations it may also cause aggression, bad sportsmanship or unfair play. These situations are difficult to cope with and are best to be prevented, even in highly contested events. That is where compassion comes in, in both low level as well as professional sports.

An athlete could show compassion in many ways, both toward fellow teammates as well as competitors, referees and spectators. The wonderful thing about compassion is that it is contagious. Once a situation occurs and a compassionate act has been present, it will duplicate itself in the same or other ways. We have all witnessed or read about situations in which an athlete breaks the mold and does something unexpectedly heartwarming.

We all have a part to play to encourage these acts of kindness in sports. It is the athlete’s responsibility to cope with a situation accordingly, a parent’s job to lead and correct when needed and a coach’s to set the example, not only toward his team but also all spectators, the other team and all youngsters who may have ambitions towards pursuing an athletic career, regardless of level.

Even though sports may be highly competitive, there is no reason why we should pick negative actions over kind ones, so let’s instill that message to all our young athletes.

Sander Vanacker, Compassionate Ridgefield