October 1st to the 7th is “National Sportsmanship, Fan Appreciation and Public-Address Announcers Week”. Phew, that’s a mouthful. But this is a time to recognized and discuss the importance of all three of these ideas and people.
Sportsmanship in school sports is a vital and often overlooked component of “the game”. Obviously winning is the ultimate hope for any game or meet; but if a win comes on the back of poor sportsmanship, that team is ultimately a loser. Harsh? Perhaps, but the ability to show respect and class to the opposing team, whether you win or lose, is the true definition of a winner. I’ve seen too many teams that absolutely trounce their opponent and then behave in a rude and disrespectful manner. To me that’s not winning. But I’ve also seen the team that took the loss hold their heads high, congratulate their team members who accomplished something they never had before and honestly and respectfully congratulate their opponent. Yes, they took the “L” for the game, but ultimately win as a team. And this is a lesson that sticks with those students. The ability to take a loss and still pick yourself, learn from mistakes that were made and move forward is exactly what we all need to understand as we move through life.
Then of course there is the fan appreciation component. You know those oftentimes wildly dressed, loud and frantic people who populate the stands? And while this “celebration week” doesn’t put sportsmanship and fans together, they certainly go hand-in-hand. Fans can boost and push the players to play harder, dig deeper and pull off a little bit of magic. School sports often happen at odd times during the day, and for a player to see their parents, grandparents, cousins, aunt or a neighbor take time out of their day or even leave work early to see them play is a HUGE confidence boost. Sure it’s easy to get the community to come out for a Friday night football game; but to put 50 people (who are not students) in the stands at 3:30p on a Wednesday…that’s dedication.
This past Saturday, the Westerly High School Boys Soccer team was scheduled to host Moses Brown for two games that kicked off at 4:15p. As I was readying to head up for concession duty at 3pm it was POURING rain. I checked in to see if the game would be called off, but a thorough inspection of the field and a lack of time to reschedule a game so late in season meant face-off was on. The question was posed “but will people come watch?”. We were trying to plan what and how much food to prepare; too much food and it goes to waste, not enough food and our skeleton crew could find ourselves in the weeds. It was cold, rainy, windy…really raw and awful weather. But if the boys were going to take the field, I reasoned that the people would come. That’s what true fans do…and they certainly did on Saturday. All of those that visited the concession stand were so thankful that we were there to provide hot chocolate, coffee, hot fries and chicken tenders…and to stand under the overhang to have respite from the rain. These are the people who cheer wildly, voicing their appreciation and support for their own children and their teammates. And don’t think it’s only parents that show up. There are local residents that come to ever single local game that they possibly can because they love Westerly and these athletes. They sit in miserable conditions to show their unwavering support. And this makes for a stronger sports atmosphere and community.
And we can not forget those that take to the booth to announce these games. These men and women that take time out of their lives to try to help the fans understand the calls, keep track of who did what on the field and oftentimes share a little color commentary increase the level of enjoyment of these games.
Sports can play a vital and important part in a student’s life. It teaches them they can depend on others to have their back. It forces them to learn to work together for a common goal, at times putting themselves and their personal success aside for the greater good of the team. The fans and volunteer announcers and others teach them the importance of community and reminds them they are part of something so much bigger than just the team.
So the next time you are in the stands, take a moment to look around and take in the crowd, the athletes giving it all that they have on the field/track and the other volunteers that show up regardless of the weather. And perhaps, cheer a little louder or clap a little longer to give a little extra appreciation to your community and fellow fans.