By Kiersten Mead
Saginaw Swan Valley junior
Every two years, the Michigan High School Athletic Association conducts Sportsmanship Summits aiming to instruct athletes on how to be the best examples of sportsmanship in their communities, both while competing and cheering on their teams. Participants experience a variety of sessions, including one directed by members of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council. The first summit of this fall was Monday in Lansing; summits also will be held in Warren, Gaylord and Kalamazoo.
On the morning of the first Sportsmanship Summit of 2012, I was trying my hardest to not let my nerves and excitement get the best of me.
As a member of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council, my role is to listen to and understand the points of view of student athletes, and share them with the MHSAA. I had spent the day before the summit preparing with the rest of my team, but I knew the sessions would be a learning experience for all of us. I was fortunate enough to be in a group with three seniors: Elle Lehman, Thye Fischman, and Matt Freeman, which made me feel a little more confident.
Our portion of the summit was to discuss the “gray areas” of sportsmanship. Our group knew that if we just sat there and gave some sort of lecture or speech, people would be bored to tears.
So instead, we did it in an interactive way. We started by having everyone stand on the outside of a roped-off circle. We began asking questions – and if an answer applied to them, they were told to step over the line.
We started with random questions, like asking who preferred the University of Michigan over Michigan State. Slowly, we worked our way into sportsmanship-centered topics. We asked the more “black and white” questions that everyone generally saw eye-to-eye on first. These led into others like, “Is it okay, as a player, to flip off fans?” or even, “Is it considered bad to spit at a referee?” If people thought that either “crossed the line” into bad sportsmanship, they were asked to step over the line.
Eventually, we started asking our “gray area” questions. For example, we asked if yelling “air ball” or “you, you, you” after a player makes a mistake is crossing the line. After everyone made their decisions, we asked them to share their thoughts and even personal experiences or stories.
I absolutely loved this part of it! I really enjoyed hearing what people thought on certain topics, especially when I didn’t necessarily see things the same way. My favorite part of our session, though, was hearing all of the personal stories. There was always at least one person in each group that had his or her fair share of them. I would not have traded my job for anything! Although, I do think it would have been really cool to have taken part in the other sessions.
The idea of tweeting throughout the day with the hash tag “BOTF” (signifying Battle of the Fans) also was a lot of fun! It resulted in a lot of people following and connecting with others they would never have otherwise gotten to know. By the time the third group (of four) had entered our session, it was clear people were starting to get more comfortable with each other.
In our session especially, there were quite a few things that surprised me. In some of the more “black and white” situations, there would sometimes be one person who thought some things were okay, while the rest of the group disagreed. It also surprised me how we would have a group very split on an issue, while another group would all see it the same way. When it’s all said and done though, I think people understood the message we were trying to convey.
In the end, the idea of the entire summit was that all of us should always be displaying positive sportsmanship. Many people told us there were things that their student sections do, that they know are wrong, yet they do them anyway. The point of this summit was to understand the importance of stepping up, being a leader, and leading by example. Nothing will change unless someone decides to take charge and change things for the better.
My hope is the people who attended the summit at the Lexington Hotel in Lansing walked away understanding their views of something aren’t the only ways of seeing it. It’s always important to keep an open mind.
And to future participants of these sportsmanship summits, I say be prepared to get involved. Feel free to have your own opinion, whether it’s popular or not. Share your stories. But most of all, have fun!
Kiersten Mead, Saginaw Swan Valley junior
- Sports: Bowling, competitive and sideline cheer
- Non-sports activities: Student government (Class Secretary), SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), Drama, Business Professionals of America
- Favorite classes: English and Drama
- What's next: Mead is considering careers in orthodontics and pediatric orthopedics, with early college possibilities including Saginaw Valley State and the University of Michigan.
- Shining sports moments: Being named "Team All-Star" by her Swan Valley cheer team; finishing undefeated in bowling, her bowling team's Regional title and rolling a 280 in a tournament.
- Pump-up jams: For bowling, "Slow and Low" by the Beastie Boys, because it totally applies (as dorky and random as that is); for cheer, "Live While We're Young" by One Direction.
- Must-see TV: "Criminal Minds"
- Favorite Film: "The Sandlot"
PHOTO: Swan Valley's Kiersten Mead helps direct a session at Monday's MHSAA Sportsmanship Summit. Tune in to Second Half later this week for video detailing the Sportsmanship Summit experience.