A Shared Code

January 29, 2015

Sometimes fan behavior varies greatly among schools even within the same league. How do you get everyone on the same page?

For the Southwest Washington 1A League (SWW1A), the solution was to collaborate on a Sportsmanship Code of Conduct.

The idea for a league-wide code came from Bryan Bahr, Principal at Rainier (Wash.) High School, a member of the SWW1A, and was facilitated by Athletic Director John Beckman. They believed the statement would be best received if it was developed by students and invited a group from each school in the league to Ranier for a summit.

"A sportsmanship code means more when it comes from the student-athletes and reflects what they want," says Beckman. "There's automatic buy-in from the other members of the student body."

The day began with icebreaker activities, after which the students broke up into groups to discuss what they wanted to see in the code, using examples of other leagues' statements as a reference. The groups eventually combined their ideas into the following:

In order to demonstrate sportsmanship, citizenship, spirit, and pride in our schools, we must show respect and conduct ourselves in an appropriate manner. We shall refrain from profanity, derogatory comments, and other intimidating words or actions directed at officials, participants, spectators, coaches, and advisors. Accept both victory and defeat with pride, integrity, and composure.

"Several schools are printing it on the backs of their game programs or announcing it at the start of contests," says Beckman. "At one of our Friday night football games, a cheerleader and her parent, a school board member, read the statement in front of the crowd, and it was really well received."

Elyssa Champlin, a sophomore who plays basketball and runs cross country at Ranier, participated in the summit and feels the new code is working. "The crowd isn't as negative as it used to be," she says. "We are hearing more positive cheering. And knowing the players on the other team as a result of working with them makes the games more fun. We're still competing, but I don't view my opponents as enemies. I see them as friends."

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