Seminars Teach The Values Of Good Sportsmanship

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It wasn't many years ago the athletic field was deemed the perfect classroom for teaching the old-fashioned values of sportsmanship, humility, sacrifice, character and camaraderie.

But with the seemingly selfish hijinks of athletes like Arizona Cardinals' defensive end Simeon Rice now dominating the sports scene, many are concerned "me-first" individualism has taken over in sports.

Some say the hard work and perseverance attitudes that so many great coaches including legendary Vince Lombardi counted on as the foundation of their teams, are now almost impossible to coach.

The lack of "individual commitment to a group effort" as Lombardi once said is not limited to overly paid professionals. The attitudes also exist on the college and high school levels.

How often have you witnessed a dedicated coach struggle through his duties mostly because of the attitudes of a handful of disgruntled athletes? Apparently school athletic officials from around the state are tuned into the problems that exist today.

Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Director Harold Slemmer once a high school and college football star recently sent a memo to all members of the AIA encouraging them to participate in three upcoming sports summits that will focus on sportsmanship and character development.

In his memo, Slemmer wrote, "throughout the past year, I have had the opportunity to visit with school leaders around Arizona.

"Frequently the conversation focused on the importance of teaching sportsmanship and character through athletic participation."

Character development through athletics should be paramount in all programs, Slemmer said.

According to the AIA Director, his organization has joined forces with the Josephson Institute of Ethics and the state's three major universities to offer three sports summits this fall. Each summit will focus on sportsmanship and character development.

PHS boys' basketball coach Randy Wilcox was one of the first to jump at Slemmer's invitation to attend a summit. He and his staff will participate in one to be held Oct. 24 at the University of Arizona. Others will be held Sept. 19 at Northern Arizona University and Dec. 12 at Arizona State University.

The three seminars will feature keynote speakers including legendary Wildcat coach Lute Olson, original Phoenix Sun Dick Van Arsdale and new ASU Athletic Director Gene Smith.

Tabbed "Pursuing Victory with Honor," the seminars are designed to help coaches and athletic administrators develop strategies for teaching good character to today's new breed of athletes.

The Arizona programs follow on the heels of two successful summits held at Stanford University and California State University, Long Beach.

Almost 1,000 coaches, athletic administrators and sports officials participated in the California seminars.

The national movement began in May 1999 in Arizona at a special meeting hosted by Gov. Jane Hull. The meeting resulted in the Arizona Sports Summit Accord which sponsors the seminars free of charge to state coaches and athletic administrators.

The accord means someone in charge is finally listening to concerned coaches as they attempt to shape and mold young athletes for life on and off the field.

Now, let's hope someone will sponsor a seminar to help teach the parents the importance of reinforcing those lessons at home.

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