2005 April/Men dear men

Etiquette Of Games

Before dealing with the etiquette peculiar to certain games, let us consider a few points of general application.

It is important to wear the correct attire for whatever game you are playing. This is a courtesy you owe your opponents as well as your team-mates. See that the whites you wear to cricket and tennis are well-laundered. Special attention is needed to ensure that tennis shoes and cricket boots are kept clean. Your football kit has to take much hard use, and should be washed frequently. Sports-clothing that is loaned to you by your club should be equally well looked after and returned in good order when required. It helps the morale of a team when it can turn out for a match looking clean and smart.

When you visit another club to play a match you should take special care to leave dressing rooms and other facilities clean and tidy. It is the duty of the captain of the home side to seek out the visiting captain and introduce himself. He also gives the visiting team any necessary instructions regarding dressing rooms, times and locations of play.

At the end of the match the visiting captain, accompanied perhaps by his vice-captain, should meet the home captain to thank him for the match and whatever entertainment has been provided. He should make a point also of meeting the coach or master in charge of the home side. Friendly exchanges of this kind help greatly towards fostering the good spirit that should exist between clubs.

A point of etiquette that is often overlooked is to let your coach or master know in good time if for any reason you cannot report for play. The coach will need time to find someone to replace you. This may not be easy if you leave it to the last minute to inform him.

Selfishness is also shown by those who attempt to monopolise the facilities for games; for example, by rushing tennis or squash courts at every opportunity, regardless of the rights of others. When this form of selfishness is supported by the exercise of superior physical strength, it is time for some disqualifications to be issued. It is not edifying to see the politeness and restraint demanded in the home give way to noisy bickering on a squash court.

As it would not be possible to give in a short space the rules of etiquette pertaining to all the games you are likely to play, a few of the more popular forms of sport only have been selected for more detailed discussion.


No game has a richer tradition than cricket. The very word has become a synonym for propriety and fair play. You should therefore welcome the opportunity of taking part in a sport of which the advantages are much more than physical.

There are few games that depend more on good captains than cricket. Apart from his actual contribution to the play, the captain has other duties to perform. Before the start of the innings he should make sure to supply to the captain of the opposing side a list of his players in their correct batting order. If there is any departure from this order he should notify the opposing captain or the scorer.

It is a pleasant tradition in cricket for the fieldsmen to clap the captain of the batting side when he comes out to bat. The captain on his part should acknowledge the gesture by touching or raising his cap. This applies likewise to any player on the field who is applauded for a piece of good play. The player who is next on the list to bat should be prepared to come on to the field as soon as the previous wicket falls, so that play will not be delayed longer than is necessary. The etiquette of cricket lays it down that the incoming and outgoing batsmen should cross at the gate leading to the field of play.

As in all games, the umpire’s decision should be taken as final. To indicate your disapproval of an umpire’s decision by standing and glaring at him when you are given out or when an appeal is disallowed is a childish exhibition of bad sportsmanship.


Some form or another of football appears to have been played from the very earliest times, but apparently there has always been the danger in this sport that vigour might degenerate into brutality. A writer in fifteenth century England described football as “nothing but beastlie furie and extreme violence whereof proceedeth hurte and rancour and malice to remain with them that be wounded”. Football in all its forms certainly calls for spirit, determination and endurance, but its purpose as recreation is completely defeated if players display the rancour and beastly fury to which the writer refers. In this respect it must be admitted that the twenty-first century shows little advance on the fifteenth.

Rugby, the oldest of the current forms of the game, has developed a distinct tradition and code of etiquette. The custom is for the home side to take the field first and clap the visiting team as it follows them to the centre of the field. The home captain then tosses the coin, allowing the visiting captain to call. The players on each side then shake hands before the play commences.

As the players leave the field at the end of the match the victors shake hands with the vanquished. These traditional gestures are more than an empty ritual; they should be a reminder that even the most vigorously contested football match does not dispense those who take part in it from the laws of politeness.


There are special advantages in being able to play tennis. In the first place, you are likely to be playing tennis long after you have hung up your football boots and your running spikes. Furthermore, tennis is one of the few outdoor games that men and women can play together. While this gives tennis an added social value, it also imposes on men who play it an obligation to be careful to observe the etiquette of the game.

In a game where so many quick decisions have to be made there is plenty of scope for players who want to win by dishonest means. You must be scrupulous in accepting the umpire’s decision. If there is no umpire, you should be ready to give your opponent the benefit of a doubt. Tennis calls for concentration and self-control. The type of behaviour known as “tennis tantrums” is both unmanly and unsporting.

At tennis you should be careful not to do anything that might upset your opponent’s concentration, such as dropping an unused ball on the court or engaging in any by-play that might distract him.


Golf can be anything but a pleasant game unless players observe the etiquette of the course. For example, a player should not drive off from the tee until the party in front is out of range. A player looking for a lost ball should call the following party through. He should then wait until all members of that party are out of range before continuing his own game. A player who hits through another party without first requesting leave shows the very worst golfing manners. Silence should be maintained while a player is making his stroke. Also there should be no sudden movement by other players or spectators.

If you dislodge a piece of turf, you should replace the divot immediately. Any depressions you make in sand bunkers should also be smoothed out before you continue your play. When on the green you should be careful not to damage the surface by dropping your bag, your clubs or the flagstick on it.

On the beach

This is a suitable stage at which to deal with a few points regarding that most popular form of outdoor venue: the beach and all the forms of physical relaxation associated with it. Swimming, surfing, diving, fishing, sailing and beach games could be healthy and invigorating pastimes when taken in moderation. But such may be an enticing climate that you can very easily find yourself indulging in too much of the sun, surf and sand, with the result that you become listless and disinclined for physical and mental effort.

Normally you will be obliged to enjoy the pleasures of the beach with many other people. Hence arises the need for courtesy and thoughtfulness so that others on the beach or in the water will not be inconvenienced. Be careful that you do not spray sand on other people as you walk along the beach. Do not engage in unseemly horseplay whether in or out of the water; many tragic accidents have resulted from this sort of behaviour. If you are using a surf-board or any other piece of equipment that could be dangerous to others, you should exercise special care and at the same time avoid any selfish monopolising of space.

The most important people on the beach are the life-savers. Respect their authority and obey their directions. Co-operate with them in their necessary and honourable task by always swimming between the flags. You should need no urging to obey promptly their shark-signals.

A person who leaves remains of food or other litter on the beach shows bad manners, thoughtlessness and a lack of civic spirit. See that your part of the beach is clean before you leave. Bad accidents have happened as a result of the carelessness of people who leave bottles, tins and other sharp objects in the sand.

It is unfortunate that at some beach resorts there are persons who offend against good taste and moral decency by immodesty in dress. No Catholic man should associate with those who want to use the beach to attract attention to themselves in this way. It is always possible to withdraw from the offenders, even if it means finding another beach.

Keeping the right balance

God has certainly blessed us with abundant means for outdoor sport. Climate, open spaces, beaches, a high standard of national health and freedom from the ravages of war all contribute to making us a sporting, some would say a sport-mad nation. There is certainly a danger that with such favourable conditions we might allow sport to “command and dominate”, as Pius XII warned.

To give too much time to sport can mean the loss of opportunities that may never come again. It is a foolish delusion to imagine that the passing notoriety gained by running, jumping, swimming or punching better than someone else is worth the loss of the spiritual life, marriage, or academic advancement. There are some men for whom a sports trophy means much more than the fulfilling of God’s Commandments. When days are over for such misguided “pot-hunters”, a sideboard stacked with gleaming, useless hardware is a poor recompense for all that has been thrown away in the effort to collect it.