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The greatness inside

Mar 15, 2012 - By Tori Stanek, Riverton High School

Editor's note: A Riverton High School student a winners in her age group of the USA Today Sportsmanship Essay Contest.

Tori Stanek was introduced last week as one of the two high school winners.

For the past two decades, USA Today and the Institute for International Sport have co-sponsored the contest in conjunction with National Sportsmanship Day, which this year was Tuesday, March 6.

Students across the country were invited to write essays of 500 words or fewer on the theme of their choosing. The other high school winner is Brittney Camlin of Hempfield Area Senior High School in Greensburg, Pa.

In life, we all have one aim; to find greatness inside ourselves. This aspiration can be observed in athletes all around the world, who continually stretch the limits that have been subconsciously placed upon humanity, and who, after thousands of years, have yet to reach the top.

It's the desire to reach new heights that keep so many of us devoted to a love for athletics and compelled to value our icons.

Athletes will achieve greatness, and we will watch, because seeing them do so reminds us that we too have greatness inside of us. However, in so doing, we've somehow started missing the point.

Somewhere along the line, the concept of winning has been associated with being great. The concept of supporting your own team has gotten mixed up with degrading the opposing team, and the perception of sportsmanship is overshadowed by the fear of loss.

The concepts get so mixed up that eventually, you get to the point where you forget that there was ever even a difference at all.

There is a difference. though. There is all the difference in the world between wanting to have your own greatness recognized by others, and having the ability to find it in yourself. The failure of others doesn't make you succeed, and wanting everyone else to lose doesn't support your own team.

Competitively speaking, one team will win and the other has to lose. At the end of the day, the ability to deal with even the most difficult loss gracefully is far more important than the outcome of any game.

In a world of scandal and entirely too much focus on material possessions, the presence of athletics is beautiful.

There is nothing more straightforward or honest than two teams playing for one outcome. However, in all honesty, too much merit has been placed on the ideology behind victory.

Winning focuses on how well you can play the game. Sportsmanship relates to how you deal with the outcome, and this true greatness defines you as both a person and an athlete.

It takes a lot more capacity to demonstrate good sportsmanship in every situation than it does to possess the skills required to prevail all the time. Everyone can be great in favorable circumstances; it's the difficult situations that will show you who you really are.

I can guarantee that, when you look back on all of this one day, it won't be the game that you'll miss. It won't even be the season or the sport. The sense of being together and existing through each other, as well as supporting one another through the team's celebration of victory with humility, and the acceptance of the occasional, yet inevitable loss with grace, will be what makes you become something that is so much greater than yourself alone.

And that is the difference between actually being great, and only wanting to be.

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