Archive for Thursday, August 18, 2005

League emphasizes respect

August 18, 2005

— Basehor - Between the steroid scandal in professional baseball, the brawl at Auburn Hills and stories of enraged parents fighting over the outcome of their daughters' youth softball games, it has become fashionable to discuss everything that is wrong with sports.

Tuesday night, at Basehor-Linwood High School, the school played host to the first Kaw Valley League Sportsmanship Summit in hopes of doing its part to improve sportsmanship in high school athletics.

The summit attracted nearly 200 coaches and administrators from throughout the district and Kaw Valley League to discuss the importance of sportsmanship at the high school level and how best to ensure that good sportsmanship is exercised by coaches, athletes and fans in all extra curricular activities.

Those in attendance sat through an hour-long session where several guest speakers, including Rod Miller of the NAIA and the executive director of the Kansas High School Activities Association, Gary Musselman, spoke at length about the code of conduct and expectations of coaches in the league.

Following that, everyone present participated in breakout sessions where coaches and administrators got together to exchange ideas on how best to promote sportsmanship in the upcoming year.

Afterward, Musselman, who is an emphatic advocate of decency in all aspects of schooling, said he was thrilled with the turnout and was excited to see all 10 schools in the KVL taking the initiative to endorse sportsmanship and make it a focal point of their programs now, and in the future.

"Clearly, I think the most important thing schools can do through activities is to teach kids to be good citizens so that they can grow up and be productive members of society," Musselman said, "and it is great to see administrators come together and work toward that common goal. Sports serve as one of the most powerful teaching venues we have, and there is no better opportunity to positively impact young people's lives. I really believe this meeting is a great start towards that end."

Several other focal points at the summit were to define the role of a coach and to discuss Rod Miller's program and outline for sportsmanship, "Champions of Character."

In his program, Miller made it clear that coaches have to be accountable for setting the bar and example for their teams, and understand fully that their actions and the choices they make will hugely affect their team's behavior and performance.

"The most important thing in coaching is that life lessons are learned," Miller said. "Sports do not teach character in the sports setting, coaches do. A coach must set the standard high and watch their kids reach those standards because they are the examples that guide them there. If you do not send the message of sportsmanship, then you allow your players to believe it is acceptable to act otherwise. As a coach, kids will live with your voice. Make sure it is a positive voice."

As for the coaches and administrators who were privy to Miller and Musselman's message, all agreed it was poignant and certainly applicable in all aspects of the teaching profession.

Dr. Joe Novak, the principal at Mill Valley high school was excited to sit amongst his esteemed colleagues and see everyone in absolute agreement that sportsmanship must be at the forefront of athletics at this impressionable level.

"I thought it was absolutely fantastic," Novak said after the meeting. "I think it was great to see the camaraderie of what we all share and believe in. Also, I think one of the most important things we did here today, was to give new coaches the tools to get started."

After sitting through the meeting myself, I was floored.

As a former athlete, I know first hand the impact a coaches words has on their athletes and have seen countless examples of poor sportsmanship. But, as a reporter who has covered games throughout the Kaw Valley League, I can assure you that there is not a better league in the state of Kansas at exercising good sportsmanship. Time and time again I have seen opposing teams in this league lay it all out on the floor/field and show grace in both victory and defeat when the outcome was decided. Even so, I saw two-hundred members sincerely interested in preserving the integrity of their league Tuesday evening, because as Rod Miller clearly stated:

"Sportsmanship is not a passive exercise, it is something that must be continually worked at and will ultimately help us all."

To learn more about the Kansas High School Athletics Associations sportsmanship/citizenship guidelines, visit www.kshsaa.org.

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