What is a Sportsman and How do You Become One?


These questions should be raised far more often than they are, but they were raised recently to honor the death of a man who undeniably was one. More than 600 people gathered in his memory.

Sir Mervyn Dunnington-Jefferson was a player of many sports and active in the governing of cricket, rackets, real tennis, horse racing and golf in the UK. He was an officer of The Queen’s Club, Marylebone Cricket Club (aka Lord’s – the sanctum sanctorum of the game) and the Tennis & Rackets Association.

Merv was a sportsman, but what led him in that direction?

Probably many things, but this looks like one of them.

These lines, handwritten by his father, were found among his papers after his death.

Definition of a Sportsman

“After all, what is a sportsman?  As I understand the breed, he is one who has not merely braced his muscles and developed his endurance by the exercise of some great sport but has, in the pursuit of that exercise, learnt to control his anger, to be considerate to his fellow man, to take no mean advantage, to resent as a dishonour the very suspicion of trickery, to bear aloft a cheerful countenance under disappointment and never to own himself defeated until the last breath is out of his body.”

They were written by R. C. Lehman and published in Punch on June 26, 1907. Lehman (1856-1929) was an English writer and Liberal Party politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1906 to 1910. At the Henley Royal Regatta he finished last in every heat he entered, from the 1877 Visitors’ to the 1888 Wyfolds. From 1891 to 1903, he coached Oxford and Cambridge, generally as a finishing coach for one or the other but in 1892 for both. At various times he also coached Leander, Harvard, Trinity College Dublin and the Berlin Rowing Club.

What is a sportsman? That is a lifelong quest but you will probably know it when you see it and especially when you don’t.

How do you become one? It helps if your father starts you off with some good advice and you follow it for a lifetime.