Sportsmanship is one of the seven core values of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA), encouraging student-athletes to follow the rules of the game, respect the judgment of officials and treat teammates and opponents with respect. This includes reducing ejections, which is why the NCHSAA has instituted various sportsmanship initiatives in its quest to be ejection free.
“It’s just a way for us to continue to promote our core values, which include sportsmanship and obviously ejections play a lot into that,” said Chiquana Dancy, NCHSAA Director of Sports, Championships and Student Services. “We’re trying to find ways to combat ejections and just remind student-athletes of the ejection policy and how that relates to sportsmanship.”
Teaming up with Farm Bureau Insurance, the NCHSAA offers the Team Recognition Program. If any team remains ejection free for its season, the NCHSAA awards it with certificates for every player on the team. Then, the team chooses three players to receive further honors.
“They can choose three student-athletes who went above and beyond the call of duty on the field or court,” Dancy said. “Those three athletes receive a t-shirt that includes our sportsmanship logo and the Farm Bureau logo.”
Taking it one step further, the NCHSAA also recognizes schools that have gone ejection free throughout the year in all of their sports. These schools are awarded a framed certificate at the end of the year. Dancy said this program has really brought out the competitive nature within the schools.
“I know for some of the schools, it seems like something simple because they’re presented at the regional meeting and they only receive a framed certificate,” Dancy said. “But I know several of them keep them throughout the year and they like the competitive nature of being in front of their peers at the regional meeting and showing them that it is possible to be ejection free throughout the year.
“A couple of years ago, we introduced recognition of schools that went five and 10 consecutive years ejection free. So, it’s motivation, if you’ve gone three years, to make it to that fifth year. If you’ve gone eight years, you’re motivated to make it to that 10th year because the recognition is a lot bigger.”
The NCHSAA state sportsmanship award is also based on a lack of ejections. If a school goes through April without ejections in any sport, it can submit a sportsmanship plan to the state association and demonstrate how the plan has helped promote sportsmanship. The NCHSAA reviews the plans and presents the winner with a sportsmanship banner and an honorarium at its annual meeting.
Dancy said every North Carolina state championship is full of sportsmanship promotion from the time the athletes arrive to the awards ceremony.
“All of our credentials for championship events include our sportsmanship logo on the back,” Dancy said. “Our officials get the same sportsmanship message or reminder. The student-athletes receive bag tags that also have the sportsmanship logo on them.
“Any type of credentialing we do, we make sure we have the sportsmanship logo as a way to promote our initiatives for sportsmanship.”
A sportsmanship plaque is also presented to one athlete from the runner-up or championship team at the state championship events. Dancy said this began as an award for lacrosse players only and was sponsored by US Lacrosse, but the NCHSAA soon expanded it to all sports.
“We decided this could be something that we do for all sports and all athletes, so we got Farm Bureau involved,” Dancy said. “They decided they would like to help sponsor that as well.”
Although Dancy said North Carolina has not had any major issues when it comes to sportsmanship or ejections, she said the association thinks it is important to keep working on.
“We just try to ingrain sportsmanship throughout everything we do at the NCHSAA,” Dancy said. “I think it protects the integrity of the sport. Having sportsmanship in place and promoting it creates opportunities for people to sort of check themselves.
“Interscholastic sports is competitive, but it shouldn’t be in such a way that you’re disrespecting your opponent or you’re not enjoying the experience. I think that having sportsmanship in place and promoting sportsmanship kind of reinforces that interscholastic environment of healthy competition and education-based athletics.”
Juli Doshan was the graphic arts technician/editorial assistant in the NFHS Publications and Communications Department.