WHS begins to implement policies to promote sportsmanship
What sparked the discussion about sportsmanship at WHS?
A brawl involving parents and students broke out in the stands following the boys’ basketball game at Lexington High School on Dec. 30. The fight occurred after a Wooster win of 63-41 where back and forth between fans escalated.
According to a Lexington police department report, extra officers were called to the game to break up the altercation, with only minor injuries being reported.
A letter released on the school website about sportsmanship, written by Wooster principal Tyler Keener and athletic director Andy Kellar, outlines the school’s expectations for spectators.
Readers are reminded in the letter that, “Profanity, degrading remarks and intimidating actions directed at officials, competitors and other fans will not be tolerated and are grounds for removal from the event site.”
Kellar also stated that fans and students on both sides of the altercation at Lexington are being charged.
According to Connor Casey of The Mansfield News Journal, the fight consisted mostly of adults, as well as some Wooster students.
Kellar indicated this problem of unsportsmanlike conduct amongst adults and athletes alike has been on the rise.
With the growing problem of poor sportsmanship in fan sections, awareness of the administration’s expectations must be raised.
Keener explained his expectation for both parents and students in saying, “My expectation of spectators is, let’s provide an atmosphere that allows our student athletes the best possible way to grow and learn. Unfortunately, we take the ideas of sport and we make it about winning and losing.”
Along with urging the community and students to have good sportsmanship in the letter, Keener also expressed that Wooster will be seeing some changes to their home basketball games to prevent conflict; he hopes that after seeing these changes, fans will follow suit.
What changes are taking place at WHS?
Steps have been taken to prevent events like the incident at Lexington.
“During the games we will get the ropes out and keep people off the floor, if people are not going to act professionally, we’ll ask them to not be a part of the game,” Keener said.
After winning a contest, WHS students traditionally gather below the Alma Mater sign and sing. One of the changes that is being made is to move the sign above the east doors of the gym, the same side where the student section is located, which will keep the students from having to travel to the visitor side of the stands.
“That is so our student sections and players are right there, so they don’t have to intermingle with the opposing team trying to get to the locker room,” Kellar said.
In addition, dividers have been placed to guide athletes and fans entering and exiting the game. School administration and police officer coverage will be also be increased during games.
“When our fans and community see these changes, they’re going to follow them. I know a lot of people are embarrassed of what happened at Lexington and they too will do a better job of how they behave in all aspects,” Keener said.
These precautions have been taken in the hope of preventing any further incidents from happening and making sure both fans and athletes know what is expected. The outcome of these changes will be put to the test when Wooster vs. Lexington at home on Feb. 3.
What can be done to promote sportsmanship?
Despite the changes being made throughout Wooster to prevent incidents such as the Lexington fight from occurring, it is pertinent to explore other avenues of promoting good sportsmanship.
Jerry Snodgrass, Assistant Commissioner of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, as well as a former coach and athletic director, is an advocate for sportsmanship and has involvement with various sport programs at the high school level throughout the state.
“I have always watched that focusing on the negative often creates more negative behaviors; challenge kids to do things in a positive light and, so often, they will meet that challenge,” Snodgrass said.
One method Snodgrass has found to foster such an attitude is the “Golden Megaphone Challenge,” a competition in which high schools attempt to prove they have the best student section by posting pictures and videos on the nights of their games tagged #GoldenMegaphone. Schools with the most retweets during the four submission times are selected to be visited by members of OHSAA.
Schools can win the Golden Megaphone Challenge after members of the OHSAA visit; winners receive a banner to display at their gym, acknowledging their student section in addition to a plaque recognizing their support.
“Ultimately, we hope we make a positive influence on not only them, but it trickles down to the adults,” Snodgrass said.
This challenge inspires good sportsmanship amongst students, as well as adult spectators.
Additionally, Snodgrass expressed that a good step for schools to take to promote good sportsmanship initiatives is to reach out to their leaders and allow them an opportunity to lead; oftentimes, promoting sportsmanship can be made most effective through social media.
Furthermore, the divide caused by winning and losing games could be mitigated by focusing more on the experience that athletic events foster.
“Encouraging the social event idea, promoting ‘theme nights,’ finding ways to transition a theme night into a positive experience,” Snodgrass said.
Little things such as social media involvement, The Golden Megaphone Challenge and theme nights could assist in boosting general sportsmanship, in addition to school pride.
Kellar and Keener emphasize that the onus is on adult spectators to recognize their role in representing good sportsmanship.
“Make your cheers supportive and not derogating to other spectators. Be a positive role model through your own actions,” as written in the letter by Kellar and Keener to the community.
Directing cheers toward positivity creates a better environment for both athletes and for spectators.