Sportsmanship is an example of the Golden Mean (1); according to Aristotle, sportsmanship is in the centre of the continuum of extreme playfulness and extreme seriousness.
Sportsmanship is not a “single virtue, but a collection of virtues” (2) and positive qualities, such as: honour, concern for others, courage, forgiveness, integrity, manners, modesty, patience, reasonableness.
Sportsmanship is all about Respect (3): respect for your opposition, respect for the officials, respect for teammates & team, respect for the spirit of the game, and respect between players & coaches.
This doesn’t mean you have to be nice to the opponent, nor do you need to be gentle, but you DO need to be civil and not behave poorly towards them. Bring your best game and best attitude, and they should bring theirs.
Athur-Banning, S., Wells, M.S., Baker, B.L., & Hegreness, R. (2009). Parents behaving badly? The relasionship between the sportsmanship behaviors of adults and athletes in youth basketball games. Journal of Sport Behavior, 32(1), p. 3-20.
Bigelow, B., Moroney, T., & Hall, L. (2001). Just let the kids play: How to stop other adults from ruining your child’s fun and success in youth sports. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communities. ISBN: 1558749276
(3) Clifford, C. & Feezell, R. (2010). Sport and character. Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics. ISBN: 9780736081924
Fish, J. & Magee, S. (2003). 101 ways to be a terrific sports parent. New York, NY: Fireside Books. ISBN: 0743227026
Goodman, G.S. (2000). 101 things parents should know before volunteering to coach their kids’ sports teams. Chicago, IL: Contemporary Books. ISBN: 0809298716
(1) Hans, J.S. (1994). The golden mean. New York, NY: State University of New York Press.
McNamee, M. (2008). Sports, virtues and vices: Morality plays. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN: 9780415194099
(2) Nlandu, T. (2008). Play until the whistle blows: Sportsmanship as the outcome of thirdness. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 35, p. 73-89.
Selleck, G. (2003). Raising a good sport in an in-your-face world: Seven steps to building character on the field – and off. New York, NY: Comtemporary Books. ISBN: 0071391053
Simon, R. (2010). Fair play: The ethics of sport. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. ISBN: 9780813343686