Every athlete is expected to follow good sportsmanship, and the fans that support them, too. Good sportsmanship is something that most schools accept as a badge of honor, taking the good with the bad and ugly. Holding one’s head high, shaking hands with the opponent and not hurling insulting terms their way is just part of what makes every program a candidate for good sportsmanship. The Michigan High School Athletic Association is hosting its Sportsmanship Summit next month and is taking to task the schools that are not following good sportsmanship. Specifically, the MHSAA says its focus groups will concentrate at this summit on appropriate cheering and creating a fun and positive experience for everyone involved.
Over the past couple seasons the MHSAA has had to deal with some ugly situations where schools forgot, or simply turned a blind eye on their school’s sportsmanship rules, which are in every high school’s athlete’s handbook. Two in particular reached into our coverage area and deserve the attention the MHSAA is putting on them. During last winter’s basketball season, Millington made it public throughout its school that is was going to run the score up to 100 over a very much smaller and struggling LakeVille team. On the boys’ soccer side, Dryden pulled its kids out of a game with New Haven after the New Haven players grabbed their crotches, fingered the crowd and uttered obscenities at them. Both very poor examples of how a school should be representing itself.
The MHSAA hopes to curtail some of the inappropriate cheers and signage that somehow seems to make it past the scrutinizing eyes and ears of school administrators. Spirited cheers are part of what makes the fan experience so enjoyable at sports competitions. However, the prevalence of signs saying that the opponent sucks and similar cheers are becoming far too common and ones that the MHSAA wants it member schools to put a stop to.
Referees all at high school, and lower level sites are constantly looking for the good in the kids and takes those instances back to the MHSAA and league officials. Case in point this year was the then-17 member LakeVille football team that took on the much larger North Branch squad at North Branch. Maybe trying to make up for its low numbers, LakeVille’s players were loud, proud and boisterous. They conducted themselves with honor, a whole lot of spirit spearheaded by their center and it was noticed by the officials. Lapeer teams have often been recognized for their sportsmanship by their former league the Flint Metro League, which awards sportsmanship honors to teams every season.
The MHSAA puts up a Battle of the Fans contest every year to help instill the good side of being a good sport. It’s something the Association started in 2011-12. Its Student Advisory Council members were instrumental in helping put up a competition for the fans to help them stay positive and on the high road. This year, the MHSAA says it will help those Student Advisory Councils by sending each school’s delegation back home from the upcoming summit with the tools to create a youth sportsmanship campaign. For some, that will be pretty seamless as they already have the groundwork laid by their respective administrators. For others, it’s another opportunity to stand up and be the good guys and tell the others that “we don’t do that at our school”.
Every school should be paying attention to what their fan section is chanting, plastering on signs and making examples of those who aren’t accepting the challenge to be good sports. It’s not just those in the gym, ice arena and football field that sees and hears it. We’ve sometimes had to dump really good sports photos because of what shows up in the background. We also hear the inappropriate chants that just simply don’t belong in a high school environment. Don’t be that school. Be the one that gets its fan section in the paper for all the right reasons.