High school gymnasiums are often lined with state championship banners to show off the school’s athletic accomplishments. In the state of Indiana, however, the banners don’t just recognize athletic championships, they recognize acts of sportsmanship as well.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) has been offering member high schools the opportunity to earn the IHSAA School Sportsmanship Award each year since 2003. The winning schools receive a banner that is then displayed in their gymnasiums, and they receive extensive community recognition.
The IHSAA believes this program – with enthusiastic participation by schools – helps remove negative influences that can occur in high school athletics. The goal is to set a positive example for others to follow.
“A lot of our schools are looking for programs to assist them with sportsmanship and that’s part of what we’re doing. The schools make a big deal out of it and they should,” said Sandra Walter, assistant commissioner of the IHSAA. “It’s not an easy distinction. It’s not an easy award to attain and every year we’re seeing increases in the number of schools that do achieve it, which is very positive.”
In order to encourage positive sportsmanship at every Indiana school and promote the values of education-based athletics, the IHSAA has partnered with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and its Champions of Character Five Star School Leadership Award Program.
Together, the IHSAA and NAIA have developed a program to recognize the high schools that are dedicated to character development and leadership.
“Our athletic directors do not have the time to shoot video or create courses that are important for these types of programs to be successful. So coupling with the NAIA was huge just so our schools had stuff to use immediately,” Walter said.
In order to receive the Champions of Character Five-Star Leadership School Banner Award, also known as the IHSAA School Sportsmanship Award, the school must:
• Have the school’s principal verify that the school has earned a minimum of 95 out of 100 sportsmanship points;
• Develop a sportsmanship/leadership/citizenship message written by a committee made up of student-athletes, parents and staff;
• Spread its sportsmanship/leadership/citizenship message throughout the surrounding community;
• Have all head coaches complete an online coaching training course; and
• Have all participating student-athletes, parents and coaches view a minimum of one chapter from the Champions of Character video series.
If a school loses points based on behavior, the IHSAA does offer ways to earn those points back by taking NFHS sportsmanship courses.
To the IHSAA, the act of sportsmanship cannot be completed by just one person, it must be done by all. The IHSAA holds everyone – from the board of education to student-athletes, from parents to student fans, from contest officials to the media – responsible to ensure sportsmanship is a lifestyle, not just a one-time account. The IHSAA makes sure to spread the idea of sportsmanship throughout its schools and communities by using the mantra “Sportsmanship has a Face” on posters in the hallway and locker room, on popcorn boxes at sporting events and even on social media using the hashtag #FaceofSportsmanship.
“You’re not going to find any educator out there that says they don’t care enough about their kids to not work with this type of program. All of us are about that,” Walter said. “We work in the sports world, but that is just a vehicle to hopefully mold responsible, respectable young people. This program is a really good start to at least arming our schools with some information, some tools and some direction.”
Maddie Koss, a 2016 summer intern in the NFHS Publications/Communications Department, is a senior sports media major at Butler University.