Good sportsmanship has many components, including playing fair, following the rules of the game, respecting officials and treating opponents with respect. And with the belief that good sportsmanship is not limited to the players in the contest, one state is involving all students in practicing good sportsmanship at high school contests.
The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) has launched a school spirit and sportsmanship challenge for student sections called #BackMyTeam. The contest is meant to boost sportsmanship and encourage students to cheer on their athletic programs in creative ways, while being respectful toward themselves, the players and the opponents.
“Our goal is to recognize some of these great student sections we have throughout the state while also encouraging good sportsmanship and school spirit,” said CHSAA Associate Commissioner Tom Robinson.
Schools enter the contest by submitting photos and videos on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag, #BackMyTeam. Some videos that have been submitted have shown student sections doing cheers along with the cheerleaders, as well as videos of pep rallies.
Often, sections have a theme for each game, which could be pink for breast cancer awareness month, or a Hawaiian theme. Other student sections simply tell students to “come loud and proud.” In addition to using the hashtag for the contest, schools are using it to promote sporting events and positive spirit.
“The response through social media has been awesome,” said Ryan Casey, CHSAA director of digital media. “Our schools have totally bought in, and it has really given them a great way to promote positive sportsmanship and bring it to the forefront of what they’re doing.”
Instead of some student sections focusing on a victory or what their teams did the best, they choose to tweet about the good in both teams competing. Among posts from students and student sections, there have been tweets such as, “Rivalry week is the best, we love friendly competition,” and “There was so much great spirit from both crowds, what a game.”
#BackMyTeam will be awarding student sections each season and winners will be announced all year long. In the fall, winners will be announced at the 4A/5A state football championships, winter winners will be announced at the state basketball championships, and spring winners will be presented at the state track and field championship. The winning student sections will also be highlighted on CHSAANow, the state association’s media and publications website.
“We are having them use the hashtag (#BackMyTeam) on Twitter and Instagram, and then our student leadership representatives are helping us select periodical winners,” Casey said. “Those winners will then be matched up against one another in a final vote ahead of our state championships each season, and the winning school will be honored during one of those championships.”
Colorado students have shown the CHSAA that they know how to create sportsmanlike atmospheres and radiate positive spirit at sporting events, which hits the association’s goal right on the nose.
“Our hope is that this type of enthusiasm continues throughout the entire school year,” Casey said.
Madi McGuire is an intern in the NFHS Publications/Communications Department and a junior at Butler University in Indianapolis.