Take the Pledge
Today in America, surveys indicate that as many as two-thirds of children between the ages of 6 and 18 are involved in athletic activities— from team sports like soccer, football, softball, tee-ball, water polo and basketball, to individual sports such as ice skating, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming, track and golf. More than 60,000 parks, schools and neighborhood recreation centers in this country sponsor youth sports of some kind.
Athletic activities provide a wide range of benefits to kids, from improved physical health to “quality time” spent with parents and friends. But there’s a basic dilemma that goes along with introducing children to organized sports: How do you teach a child to enjoy competition without instilling an unhealthy “win at all costs” attitude that may lead to professional or interpersonal problems later in life?
That quandary goes back to the days of knights in shining armor; it was, in fact, the very reason why the Code of Chivalry was developed in the Middle Ages. In those days the line between ethical competition and ruthless self-interest was as thin as the edge of a sword.
In today’s world, we’ve seen many examples of how easily disregard for the rules in sports translates into disrespect for authority in other areas of life — in the workplace, in the political arena and in society in general. (How many news stories have you heard about the multi-million-dollar “bad boy” athletes selling drugs, abusing women, or vandalizing property?)
To combat the poor examples set by sports stars who lie, cheat and steal, many youth leagues and athletic associations are adopting codes of conduct and ethical statutes to help young players internalize the concepts of respect, fair play and sportsmanship. These codes emphasize graciousness, self-restraint, integrity and dedication — concepts that would have been very familiar to the armored knights of the Middle Ages.
Knights in shining armor were the greatest athletes of their time. They were admired as both warriors and competitors, but it was their dedication to the ideals of upstanding and ethical conduct that made them heroes for many generations to come — just as sports stars who combine personal values and athletic excellence in today’s world continue to be held in high regard long after they’ve retired from the public eye.
By emphasizing the connection between integrity, sports and the chivalrous knightly champions of old, parents and coaches allow today’s kids to learn more about the importance of ethical conduct on today’s “fields of battle.” To help with this, we’ve created The Athlete’s Code of Chivalry — a simple but effective pledge that incorporates the Seven Knightly Virtues. We hope that athletes, coaches and parents alike accept the challenge of committing themselves to training, playing and living by the Code of Chivalry as they pursue their athletic endeavors in the 21st century.
As an athlete, I set an example of integrity, honor and strength. I come from the competitive tradition of knights in shining armor, and whenever I participate in my sport, I pledge to follow these guidelines:
Scott Farrell has more than 25 years of experience in armored, full-contact martial arts in tournament societies and Renaissance Faires. He teaches courses in Western martial arts through the Team Touché Fencing Center in Del Mar, California.