PDT Sports Editor
In a world that is constantly changing and evolving, the term “hated rival” is becoming a thing of the past. Especially in high school athletics, where the term “friendly rivalry” is becoming more embraced. For the West Senators and Wheelersburg Pirates, the rivalry just got a lot more friendly.
Wheelersburg Superintendent Mark Knapp and West Superintendent Jeff Stricklett have made a conscious effort to remind their respective students of another common but often forgot term, which is “Sportsmanship.”
Wheelersburg travels to West tonight for an SOC II basketball contest, which is the culmination of a special week for both schools.
“The whole theme is promoting sportsmanship and scholarship,” Knapp said. “This was an effort to bring our two communities together and to promote sportsmanship, and also to promote our scholarship funds.
Stricklett knows the importance of instilling sportsmanship in today’s youth.
“We have to put it into perspective in high school athletics,” Stricklett said. “As the Ohio High School Athletic Association stresses, you need to have sportsmanship. Again, you can be rivals but you also must display sportsmanship.”
No one is entertaining the idea of ending age-old rivalries, however, there is a certain level of respect that must be maintaining between the two competing programs.
“We need to respect each other, respect the game we are playing,” Knapp said. “It can be done and it can still be fun, and it can still be a rivalry. But we need to keep everything in perspective. I think that’s the message we wanted to deliver to our student bodies.”
Throughout the week, both schools have played public service announcements regarding sportsmanship. Knapp and Stricklett emphasized that they didn’t want the rivalry to simmer down, however, they wanted the respect level ratcheted up.
“I really believe you can be a good sport and be a fierce competitor,” Stricklett said. “Those two things are not inconsistent. Where people blur the lines or get confused is when they make the mistake of thinking you can’t combine those two things. That is something Mr. Stricklett and I would like to emphasize to our student bodies. You can compete at a very high level and still be a good sportsman, and respect the skills and talents of the players you’re competing against.”
The idea is to teach students the value of sportsmanship while raising money for both school’s scholarship programs. The Game will take place at West, which will be kicked off by a chili dinner prior to the contest. All revenue will be split in half and given to the respected institutions.
“This will allow students from Wheelersburg and West to use the scholarship money to further their education,” Stricklett said.
Before the game tips-off, there will be a chili dinner in the West cafeteria. There will also be raffle prizes, split the pot and a halftime shot challenge.
The last time both schools competed athletically, there was a conflict between the Senator and Pirate football players. Kapp and Stricklett both acknowledge the conflict as part of the reason for creating this sportsmanship initiative.
“I can’t deny that had a small part in it … ,” Knapp said. “… Students today have so much access to un-sportsmanship like conduct through TV and the Internet, and so forth, we just felt like we needed to make sure our kids understand that’s not appropriate behavior.”
Stricklett saw this opportunity as a teaching moment.
“A little bit of it had to do with what happened in the fall,” Stircklett said. “We have talked about this in the past and we now have the opportunity to show our kids that you can have a rival but that only goes so far. You can show sportsmanship and compete, and good things will happen.”
Both superintendents expressed their desire to begin a new tradition of sportsmanship week.
“We are going to do something annually,” Stricklett said. “We haven’t worked out the details yet but it is something that Mark and I, and our administrations want to do annually.”
Sticklett believes this initiative can only help raise the awareness for student athletes.
“If you set a high expectation, most students will honor those expectations,” Stricklett said. “If we set the expectations and have the activities that Mark and I would like to do in the future, we can build a solid foundation toward sportsmanship.”
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Chris on Twitter @crslone.