With bases loaded and two outs, the player up to bat is facing a full-count last pitch. The pitch is thrown. The batter swings and misses. Does the batter's team respond with a disappointed sigh or "that's OK, you'll get it next time"?

The judge has the class of yearling heifers all lined up and is about to make his placings final. You're standing at the top of the class. Then, at the last minute, the judge rearranges the lineup and you end up third in the class. Do you walk out of the ring with a frown or a smile?

A couple weeks ago, both our youth softball season and our youth showing season ended. This was my family's first year with a child playing in the local softball league and the second year of showing dairy cattle in 4-H.

Both softball and showing were great experiences, with lots of learning opportunities. As I look back at both seasons, I find myself thinking about the importance of role models in each of these activities. Specifically, I noticed the way older players, exhibitors, coaches, leaders, and other parents demonstrated sportsmanship.

The softball league Dan played in is made up of kids ages nine through 14, so each team includes players of all ages. Dan was lucky enough to end up on a team with a group of kids who were playing to learn and have fun. This was Dan's first time participating in a team sport and his first time playing softball or baseball, so he had a lot to learn. The older kids on his team and his coaches did a great job teaching and encouraging him.

Dan's team didn't finish the season with a winning record, but, more importantly, they played every game with positive attitudes and good sportsmanship. They did win one key game, though.

In the first round of the league playoffs, Dan's team, which was seeded sixth, played a great game and defeated the team seeded third. You've never seen a group of kids more excited than Dan's team was that night. The win sent them into the semi-finals, where they played two great games and ended up taking fourth place in the league.

Watching the players (on all of the teams) during those playoff games, it was interesting to watch how well sportsmanship held up under pressure. I am not a fan of youth programs where "everybody wins." In life, there are winners and losers. Sometimes the game goes the way we hoped and planned, other times it doesn't. But whether we win or lose, it's important to do so with grace and a smile on our face.

When my kids walked into the show ring at our county fair later that week, I watched the exhibitors' sportsmanship a lot more closely than I have in the past. Why? Because it's become very clear that my young kids are watching older kids very closely.

Our fair has two dairy shows - 4-H and Open Class - on two separate days. By the time we got to showmanship in the Open Class Show, Monika was not only working to set her calf up for the judge, but also tapping on her calf's tailhead in an attempt to get the calf to tuck her tailhead down.

I didn't teach Monika this, because her calf has a very correct tailhead setting. There was no need for the calf to tuck her tailhead down. Monika had obviously been watching some of the more experienced exhibitors as they tapped tailheads while presenting their cows and heifers to the judge.

At first I chuckled a little at Monika's imitation of other exhibitors, but I quickly found myself feeling proud of her determination to do well in showmanship. I have long felt that showmanship is the most important class of the show. Nobody has a perfect heifer or cow, but every exhibitor can play up a cow's strengths and minimize her weaknesses. Showmanship is also a great opportunity for exhibitors to share what they've learned about dairy cattle through showing.

I was proud, too, of Monika's attentiveness while watching the show. Watching older kids is a great way for young kids to learn, especially in showmanship.

That's why I was incredibly disappointed when not all of our county's 4-H exhibitors came out for showmanship. If 90% of the dairy exhibitors had participated in showmanship, our county would have been granted an extra state fair trip. We missed that number by two exhibitors.

While I was holding a heifer in state fair lineup, I heard one exhibitor say, "Why should I come out for showmanship? I'm not getting a state fair trip this year."

Both the 4-H mom holding the heifer on the other side and I told him, "Because next year that extra trip could be yours!"

I later saw that the exhibitor did come out for showmanship. To me, that was a great display of sportsmanship.

On the flip side, there was an exhibitor who did very well in the state fair lineup, was essentially guaranteed a state fair trip, and then didn't participate in showmanship. I was shocked, because this experienced 4-Her perennially does well in showmanship and is someone that lots of younger 4-Hers look up to.

Good sportsmanship is all about maintaining a good attitude after both losing and winning. Good sportsmanship helps the entire program - whether it's softball or showing cattle - and sets a good example for young participants.