OPINION: The lost art of sportsmanship

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 5, 2007

Sportsmanship is a lost art.

There was a day and time when I was always proud of the attitude our teams displayed when they were on the courts and fields of the region.

When our teams went to state tournaments, there was no question that they would be the most well-behaved and sportsmanlike of the entire group.

I realize I have grown nostalgic about some of our players, but I will always remember Keri Benton’s class and poise while playing for Ridgecroft and Brad White’s politeness even while playing the toughest defense around at Lawrence. Spencer White’s softball teams at Bertie were hard-nosed and mean on the field, but did so with the most sportsmanlike of behavior.

There have been many others recently who fit that mold. Players like Kathryn Vick and Reggie Wiggins, our first two Athletes of the Year, modeled good sportsmanship.

Still, there are times when the attitude of our players, fans and coaches is saddening.

Don’t get me wrong. For the most part, our kids and coaches still conduct themselves with the sportsmanship and decorum that I and I hope many others expect.

To a large extent, it is the parents and the fans that have gotten out of control. I’ve written about this on many occasions, but it needs to be addressed again.

At the recently concluded Tarheel Independent Conference tournament, the subject of sportsmanship came up many times.

While I didn’t have a problem with some of the things other people did, I did have a problem with anyone chanting that they “hate” another school. That happened at least on championship day and I was told it happened the night before as well.

I like Tim Boone and Chris Hill and Bryan Britton and the rest of the Ridgecroft boy’s basketball team. I always have and I imagine I always will. Despite that, I didn’t have any problems with the fact that every school at the tournament except Ridgecroft was cheering for Terra Ceia. They paid their $5 or whatever to get in and they can root for whoever they want.

I did have a problem with certain individuals chanting “We hate Ridgecroft.” I would have had the same problem if the chant had been directed at Northeast or Lawrence, who are also in our coverage area, or at Hobgood, Pungo, Terra Ceia or Albemarle, who are not.

It was uncalled for and inappropriate.

It wasn’t the only show of bad sportsmanship at the tournament by far. Probably every school at the tournament had at least one incident that most of those representing the institution would have been embarrassed by.

The best-behaved school of the tournament was Pungo Christian Academy. Athletic Director Melanie Sawyer always stresses behavior and it was evident that her teams and even parents listen.

The TIC has long been a bastion of sportsmanship, hard work, effort and enthusiasm. I hope this tournament was an aberration and not the beginning of that coming to an end.

The TIC isn’t alone facing the problem, however.

Bertie High School, my alma mater, has always been a horrible place to take in a basketball game. I’ve seen people cheer when players from other teams are hurt and other such embarrassing events. There are times when I’ve seen Athletic Director Marvin Rankins stand in the corner and simply shake his head because he couldn’t believe the way fans acted.

Bethel Christian Academy has come under fire from some opposing teams this season because of the actions of their fans in being overzealous in their criticism of other schools and/or officials.

The top banner hung at Hertford County High School is a Sportsmanship banner received many years ago. It is hung above state titles and league championship banners because the school was so proud of the award.

While HCHS has suffered the same types of problems as our other schools in sportsmanship, Athletic Director Charles Simmons has managed to keep most of it in check.

I would like to see sportsmanship awards handed out more often. In fact, I have vowed to add a sportsmanship award to the end of year awards we give out after each school year.

We have the best kids in the world right here at home. If parents conduct themselves appropriately at games, the student-athletes will as well. The domino effect can also go the other way.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks?

You can reach me at thadd.white@r-cnews.com or call me at 332-7211.

Be careful out there and be good sports.