November 09, 2004

SIUC working with Illinois High School Association New DVD promotes good sportsmanship

by Paula M. Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. - - Feel like you need a flack vest these days just to go to the ballpark, soccer field or high school football game? You're not alone.

Unruly behavior by foul-mouthed fans, raging parents and irritated athletes is so pervasive it's spurred the phrase "sports rage."

Now for some welcome news: The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is mounting a pre-emptive strike to prevent the fury from spoiling interscholastic sports at its 752 member high schools.

And it tapped talented folks with ties to Southern Illinois University Carbondale to help.

The end result is a 15-minute DVD "Sportsmanship: Competition with Respect," produced by several SIUC creative people, with partial underwriting from the University, for the IHSA.

The IHSA recently shipped free copies of the DVD to all its member schools. IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman hopes it will reinforce conventions that will serve students long after they empty their lockers.

"Promoting good sportsmanship is one of our highest priorities," Hickman explains. "Good sportsmanship is fundamental to our goal - - creating good citizens. Everyone associated with interscholastic competition, from coaches to players, fans, parents, contest and school officials, needs to realize sports programs teach kids lessons that'll last a lifetime.

"We need to make sure the lessons we teach are positive," adds Hickman, a former teacher, principal and coach.

DVD highlights include a reflective interview with Harlem Globetrotters' owner Mannie Jackson, dubbed "Mr. Basketball" in his early days at Edwardsville High School. He went on to become the first African-American All-American and captain of the Illini basketball team before playing with the Globetrotters, known worldwide as the "Ambassadors of Goodwill."

But it still stings when he remembers racial slurs he and his high school teammates endured at an away game decades ago, he says. To this day he refuses to bring his team to the town that put them down - - which he's too polite to identify.

He hires only players whose athleticism is matched by impeccable conduct.

"The taunting, gesturing and trash talking in sports today diminishes the entertainment value of sport. Yet it's publicized and, in some cases, glamorized by the media. In my opinion, this gives children a poor example of how to behave," said the soft-spoken Jackson.

"Our players are not only scouted for their abilities on the basketball court, but how they handle themselves away from it as well," he adds. "And one of the lessons of the 'C.H.E.E.R. for Character' program the team presented to thousands of elementary school students last year is that "R" stands for respect. We teach that when we visit schools and practice it on the court every game."

Rounding out the DVD are comments by Utah Jazz basketball coach Jerry Sloan, a McLeansboro native, IHSA's Hickman and several area coaches, officials, athletes and fans.

Production credits go to: Michelle Suarez with the SIU Alumni Association, executive producer; co-producers Mike Covell, a videographer and SIUC cinema-photography professor; Gordon Pruett, a cinema department alum and veteran scriptwriter; and Joey Helleny, a long-time radio announcer with the SIUC Broadcasting Service, who narrates the piece.

"The video has a definite Southern Illinois flavor," says Pruett, who with Covell schlepped cameras, sound gear and tripods to countless 2002 sporting events around the region and beyond.

"We did our best to try to shoot as many sports as possible - - both boys' and girls' - - to reflect the diversity of high school sports in Illinois," Pruett says.

Look closely and you'll spot athletes from Carbondale, Du Quoin, Murphysboro, Herrin, Pinckneyville, Anna-Jonesboro and elsewhere. The DVD features track and field, football, basketball, softball, baseball and volleyball competitions. Live sound bites catch officials reminding players to make good sportsmanship their top priority.

Pruett says it was easy catching athletes at their best. That's exactly the sort of behavior the IHSA hopes other high school athletes will emulate.

The DVD includes shots of athletes shaking hands and giving congratulatory slaps on the backs to opponents - - and gleefully flocking with teammates after a win.

Jackson says positive images of teams sharing these special moments can be antidotes to what seems to be a growing trend toward self-centeredness. "American sports culture is favoring the individual over the team today. But even the best individual players cannot succeed without a strong supporting cast," says Jackson.

"The greatest teams become great by working together to make each other better, instead of simply riding the wave of one star player," he explains. Hickman adds that perhaps the toughest, yet most character-building moments, come with losses.

"Learning to be gracious in victory and defeat will serve kids well later in life," he says.

For more information on the IHSA's good sportsmanship campaign and its mascot "Add A. Tude," visit its website at

Serving others and providing leadership are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence through Commitment, the master plan the University is following as it approaches its 150th birthday in 2019.

(Editors: For a copy of the DVD, please contact the IHSA's Marty Hickman at 308/663-6377).

(CAPTION: Courtly gestures - - Though they battled one another in a championship basketball game, competitors congratulate each other in this freeze frame from the new DVD "Sportsmanship: Competition With Respect." Creative people from Southern Illinois University Carbondale produced the DVD for the Illinois High School Association, which recently shipped copies to its more than 700 member high schools.)

Photo courtesy of the Illinois High School Association