By Caroline Schneider
Whether it’s shoving on a football field, cursing on a volleyball court or screaming from the sidelines, it may seem like poor sportsmanship is littering the multiple high school playing grounds around Northwood High.
Jack Middleton is the Northwood varsity soccer coach, and although he claims that good sportsmanship is important to the sport, he’s not naive in admitting that even his team doesn’t always act appropriately.
“Our sportsmanship could use a little bit of fine tuning, [but] on the whole I’d say 90 percent of the time we’re doing pretty well,” Middleton said. “Every now and then your tempers get flared a little bit because your adrenaline’s up and that’s going to happen with any team.”
And that may be true, but Northwood’s starting quarterback, senior Cam Pappas, blames poor sportsmanship on a different problem: a team’s inability to win.
“If it’s the fourth quarter and a team knows they’re going to lose, they’ll probably start talking junk,” Pappas said.
Senior football player Kevin Williams agrees.
“[There’s a drive] because everybody wants to win…. everybody is shooting for the same thing,” Williams said.
A lot of the time poor sportsmanship can originate from aggressive or talented players frustrating opposing teams, but multi-county referee Robert Mouro, who recently refereed a Northwood soccer game, recognizes that it isn’t always the players who contribute to a string of bad behavior on a field.
“A very large part of it can have to do with the coaches and the athletic director,” Mouro said. “If they tolerate a player who demonstrates some sort of unsportsmanlike behavior, whether its cursing at somebody [or] pushing somebody after a play, it will grow.”
“There are teams out there who have coaches that encourage that rough play which leads to bad sportsmanship,” Middleton said, “… and there are a couple of teams that I think need to do a lot better job of it.”
And there may even be teams at Northwood that have an aggressive coaching problem. An anonymous Northwood athlete holds her coaches partially accountable for the poor sportsmanship her teammates display toward each other.
“[Our coaches] try to yell at us to make us mad, but then a lot of times their yelling doesn’t really affect us,” the player said. “If we’re in a game and the other team [is winning], the yelling is not going to [help].”
When one thinks of sportsmanship, it’s usually regarding actions between two different teams, but some Northwood teams admit to lacking proper sportsmanship when it comes to each other as well.
Senior and varsity soccer captain Blake Svendsen sees this occasional problem with his team. Svendsen plays defense for the team and admits that when the game isn’t going as well as it should, his teammates are known for getting a little irritated with each other
“You’re just trying to get the best out of other people when you think they’re not performing as they should,” Svendsen said.
Svendsen feels that fighting within a team makes more sense than getting frustrated with the opposing team during a game.
“You don’t really have a reason to be angry at [other teams],” Svendsen said. “You can’t control what they do but you can have a hand in what your teammates do.”
Senior tennis player Kimberly Miskow finds that success for her is found through teammate support rather than confrontation. While playing doubles, Miskow understands that messing up occasionally is just a part of the game.
“I’m just really supportive because sometimes [my partner will] mess up… [and] sometimes I mess up too,” Miskow said. “We’re basically just there to support each other so we can play at our best and it’s really fun when you’re winning and you have a teammate that’s really supportive of you.”
Senior soccer player Emily Davis feels that sometimes bad sportsmanship is just a part of the game, but it doesn’t affect how her teammates feel about each other.
“[On my challenge team] my friends and I would yell at each other,” Davis said. “But then when the game was over we would be happy with each other because that’s just how sports are.”
Northwood boys’ basketball coach Russ Frazier agrees.
“Things are said during a contest between players that [are] heated sometimes,” Frazier said. “But when the game is over, that’s over; you walk off and shake hands and that’s what makes sportsmanship valuable.”