It’s a phrase that sounds quaint now — like something Ward Cleaver would tell the Beaver.
“Be a good sport.”
In this age where winning seems to override all other concerns, sportsmanship often takes a back seat.
It’s an unfortunate reality. We read about it all the time. Here are just a few sad examples from recent months:
—There was the Canadian ice hockey coach who tripped an opposing teen player in the post-game handshake line, breaking his wrist.
—There was the mayor of Bethlehem, who got ejected from a wrestling match for screaming at officials.
—And worst of all, there was a gang-related murder at a pizza party after a peewee football game in Los Angeles.
Those are extreme cases, to be sure, but they make the point. Sportsmanship, in many instances, seems to be in short supply.
In southern York County, however, sportsmanship is alive and well.
Just ask the York County Chapter of PIAA Basketball Officials. That group recently bestowed the 2013 Gretchen Wolf Swartz Sportsmanship Awards to the Susquehannock boys’ and girls’ programs.
This is no fluke, either. In the 13-year history of the awards, this is only the second time that both winners (boys and girls) have come from the same school. It last happened in 2003 … when Susquehannock again swept the awards. In fact, the Warrior basketball programs have been honored with 10 Swartz awards. Bermudian Springs is a distant second with five.
They are clearly doing something right down in Glen Rock.
But don’t get the idea that the Warriors won the awards because their athletes were “good sports on bad teams.” The Susquehannock girls’ team recently made a stirring run to the District 3-AAA title game and will enter the PIAA state playoffs this weekend with an 18-8 record. The Warrior boys weren’t quite as successful, but they finished a more-than-respectable 14-8.
Susquehannock boys’ coach John Zerfing is a believer that sportsmanship and success aren’t mutually exclusive.
“I believe that competitiveness and sportsmanship are not opposites and both can, and should, be present in athletics,” Zerfing said. “The real value of athletics is in helping develop the character qualities that will enable our student-athletes to be successful in life off the court — in the classroom and in society.”
Susquehannock athletic director Chuck Abbott said the school tries to emphasize the importance of winning the Swartz awards by hanging banners in the school gym recognizing the sportsmanship achievements — right next to the banners for winning championships.
Abbott believes coaches play a key role in promoting sportsmanship.
“We tell (the coaches and the players) that there is not much you can control, but you can control, as a coach and a student athlete, your actions on and off the playing surface,” Abbott said. “We feel it is the responsibility of the head coach and the assistant coaches to set the tone and lead by example.”
The Susquehannock coaches have apparently taken Abbott’s words to heart — and it didn’t start this season.
“The basketball program at Susquehannock has been blessed to have had high-quality people as head coach over the years, such as Wayne McCullough and Tom Laure,” Zerfing said. “Sportsmanship has been ingrained in the basketball program from well before I became the head coach.”
Susquehannock girls’ coach Dave Schreiner said parents also play a key role in developing sportsmanship.
“I want my players to play harder than anyone, but to do it in the right way — no trash talk, no arguing with officials, no dirty play,” Schreiner said. “Our kids are always nice and respectful. It’s a tribute to our parents.”
It appears that sportsmanship at Susquehannock is a total team effort. The athletes, the coaches, the administrators and the parents have all bought in.
The end result is an athletic program that Warrior Nation — and Ward Cleaver — can be proud of.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.
About the Swartz awards
The Gretchen Wolf Swartz Sportsmanship Awards are presented each year to the boys’ and girls’ basketball programs that achieve the highest level of sportsmanship among fans, players, coaches and administrators from the seventh-grade level through the varsity level.
The awards are given out by the York County Chapter of PIAA Basketball Officials.
Gretchen Wolf Swartz was a York County basketball official from 1981 until 1995. She died from leukemia in 1997 at age 41. Her fellow officials then created the awards in her honor. Traveling trophies are awarded to the winning schools.
In May, the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Fund Board of Directors will award two $5,000 scholarships — one to a senior from each of the winning programs. The scholarships can go to players, cheerleaders or managers. This year, Susquehannock swept both awards. That is the second time that has happened in the 13-year history of the awards. The last time it happened was 2003, when Susquehannock also swept the awards.
The value of the scholarships has increased nearly 43 percent over last year, when each scholarship was worth $3,500. York Catholic’s Karli McFatridge and York Suburban’s Dylan Keller won last year’s scholarships.
The first scholarships — both in the amount of $1,000 — were awarded in 2001. More than $50,000 in scholarship money has been handed out since the inception of the awards.