Preparation for The Day Holiday Classic, last month’s four-team hoops foray into Mohegan Sun, included a task to quiz participants on sportsmanship: what is it, what does it look like it and how is it best implemented? The plan was to produce a 90-second video to play on both the arena’s main board and the livestream.
The video never happened.
It’s not that kids and coaches haven’t understood the concept of sportsmanship. But their ambiguous answers suggested they simply couldn’t articulate its essence beyond anything anecdotal, despite our best strategies for framing questions.
I understand that not everything fits into a sound sentence. Still, I wonder why such a popular subject, which often invites every Tom, Dick and Harriet to look like they’ve written the textbook on the subject, is so difficult to define – and why sportsmanship seems more abstract than concrete, more subjective and objective. .
More material for debate came earlier this week when Hamden’s Sacred Heart Academy won a women’s basketball game 92-4 against Lyman Hall. It became the state’s latest cause celebre, with Sacred Heart suspending coach Jason Kirck for one game and school president Sister Sheila O’Neill issuing the following statement:
“Sacred Heart Academy values lessons taught and cultivated through athletic participation, including ethical and responsible behavior, leadership and strength of character, and respect for opponents.” girls from (monday) evening does not correspond to our values or our philosophies.
“Sacred Heart Academy administration and sports are remorseful for the manner in which the game result was achieved. We are in communication with Lyman Hall High School, the Southern Connecticut Conference and the CIAC, and are responding to these concerns internally to ensure that our sports programs continue to encourage personal, physical and intellectual growth.”
My early education taught me never to argue with a nun. Still, I hope Sr. Sheila understands that sportsmanship issues are more endemic to Sacred Heart than she realizes. Let’s not forget that while Kirck encouraged the pressure defense as his team took an 80-0 lead after three quarters, the person in charge of the school’s Twitter account for athletics decided to continue tweeting the updated scores.
When it got to 59-0, NFA women’s basketball coach Courtney Gomez replied, “Why is this being tweeted? Wow.”
Sacred Heart has since deleted the tweet. But that doesn’t change the facts: another school employee thought 59-0 was just awesome.
More evidence: The Sacred Heart women’s soccer team beat Lyman Hall 11-1 in the fall. Wasn’t seven goals enough?
This is a wonderful opportunity for Sacred Heart — far from being the only sportsmanship offender in Connecticut — to lead the charge in a meaningful public debate about sportsmanship and its tentacles. The current discourse is hardly superficial, such as CIAC’s well-intentioned, but ultimately toothless “Class Act School” initiative, designed to “promote sound sportsmanship principles in our schools.”
Sportsmanship standards are often read via monotone by players or PA announcers before games, using bromides like “we view the field/pitch as an extension of the classroom.” It sounds noble. But based on what people say and do at games – from shouting in the stands to coaches racking up scores to lackeys tweeting about it – sportsmanship is widely dismissed as too abstract and subjective. .
Sacred Heart — along with other schools in the state — should make sportsmanship part of the curriculum. I would say that sportsmanship has as much to do with sociology as sport. So, rather than yards and grounds being “extensions of the classroom”, let’s bring the concepts of decency and respect for yards and grounds right into the classroom.
It would encourage kids and teachers to have different points of view and think enough to think twice the next time they think scoring 11th or pressing with a 40-point lead is a good idea.
The mandatory statewide reaction to Sacred Heart 92, Lyman Hall 4: Get Your Pound of Flesh. Right on Kirk. Except he’s not even the only delinquent in his school.
Here is an opportunity to be more reflective than punitive. More thoughtful than vengeful. An opportunity to communicate and educate. Bringing sportsmanship from the catacombs of our spirits to the green of the village. From the abstract to the concrete.
That’s the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro