Sports opinion: Sportsmanship is not just for players

Sports columns aren’t my forte as the lede explains. But as I covered a football game the weekend prior to writing this, I observed some blatantly unsportsmanlike conduct by the home team’s coach. Though I didn’t intend the outcome, this column sparked interest from the school’s superintendent and disciplinary action against the coach.

By Les Bowen for Genesee Country Express   |   Sept. 8, 2011   |   Original source

I am not one to generally comment on sports. I admit, I am not the biggest of a sports fan. I don’t religiously watch college or professional sports and if you asked me whether the Bills have a shot against the Chiefs this weekend, I couldn’t tell you. In fact, I had to look up the schedule just to write that sentence and I had no idea until looking that this is the first week of regular season.

However, I do enjoy the part of my job that gives me a sideline pass to high school sports and I’m actually disappointed that none of the three teams we cover at the Express have a home game of football Friday night.

I see high school sports as more than a contest with a winner and loser. Yes, I know the ultimate goal in each game is to win. But that’s not why we have these programs. That’s not why our public schools use taxpayer dollars to fund these programs. Just like every other extracurricular program, sports are an incentive for students — many athletes are motivated to make grades because of eligibility requirements. A second primary purpose for extracurricular programs is to provide an opportunity for students to develop those character traits that are better taught outside a classroom.

That’s one reason I’m impressed that schools in Section V regularly begin games with a reminder of sportsmanship. Anyone who is a fan can recite the mantra: “Be loud. Be proud. Be positive.”

It’s along those lines that Friday’s football game in Dansville was a let-down. It wasn’t the score that was depressing (Though I do silently cheer for the teams I cover). The Mustangs played one of the toughest teams in their league. It was apparent that Livonia was playing a better game and as time ticked by, it was easy to see the frustration among Dansville’s players and coaches.

That was tough to watch. But more disappointing was a point in the middle of the second half when a coach let his frustrations get the better of him. I’m leery to point it out, but I believe many fans saw the incident. Any player or fan who spewed such vulgarities could be flagged or expelled from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct. I’ve watched referees do just that.

When coaches fail to demonstrate the conduct expected from every player, they are no longer leading. Rather, they are telling players that those behaviors are acceptable as well as showing a poor representation for our community.

The players, the fans, the community, we all expect better. So next time, Coach. Be loud. Be proud. Be positive.