Voices of the Nation: January 2015

By NFHS on January 12, 2015 hst Print

What are your suggestions for improving spectator behavior at high school games?

Drew Potthoff, CMAA
Athletic Director, Marian Central Catholic High School
Woodstock, Illinois

At Marian Central Catholic we make sportsmanship a priority. There are three majorstake holders when it comes to promoting good sportsmanship at athletic contests. One is the coaches and athletes, another is the student fans and the third would be our parents and adult fans. We want good sportsmanship to be the “Front Porch” of our athletic programs. What we mean by that is that how your fans act at games and during competitions is the first thing that people see about your school. Reputations and assumptions are made quickly and can be either positive or negative.
Communicating your expectations of what good sportsmanship is to your teams, students and fans is imperative. This can be done within your pre-season meetings with everyone involved.


Rod Hasenbank, CAA
Activities/Athletic Director, Topeka (Kansas) High School

Building positive relationships with our student body and identifying those student leaders that attend the majority of our sporting events is the MOST IMPORTANT thing we do in creating a positive atmosphere. I speak with those students and discuss the special qualities of our school. I ask our leaders how they feel we are viewed by other schools in our league, community and across the state. If they feel we are viewed in a negative light, then what can we do to change that? We discuss Rule 52 (state association rule on sportsmanship) and what’s appropriate at contests, and before you know it, our leaders are telling their peers not to yell during free throws or not to boo the officials.
A few years ago, an opponent’s student section was being pretty negative and out of nowhere our student body began chanting, “Rule 52,” “Rule 52,” “Rule 52.” You could see the opposing school’s student body asking each other, “What is Rule 52?”


Eric Phillips
Athletic Director, Cleveland (Tennessee) High School

I think the key to improving behavior at high school events is communication and clearly defined expectations. I communicate and teach our athletic mission statement of “education first” and “sportsmanship” in our preseason parent meetings before each of the three athletic seasons. The parents are reminded that winning championships is a lot of fun and we hope to win many of them. However, if our season ends up enduring stretches of adversity, we believe that these struggles give us the opportunity to teach our kids great lessons: sticking together, being accountable, staying positive, finding a way to enjoy the process of fighting through hard times, etc.


Rob Berry
Executive Director of Athletics, St. Vrain Valley School District
Longmont, Colorado

St Vrain’s philosophy on sportsmanship is: We believe in integrity, fairness and respect. Those have become our principles of good sportsmanship. We communicate these principles during team meetings and parents meetings, and we read announcements about sportsmanship before and during games. The message/behavior really takes root when coaches, players and staff display positive behavior at a trying moment during the event. We strive for our coaches to coach and be encouraging. We teach players to play and know not all fouls will be called and not all calls will be right but that’s part of the game. We emphasize that staff members show respect to both teams and celebrate positive moments during the event. 