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OSAA has partner in quest for sportsmanship.

Byline: Commentary by Steve Mims The Register-Guard

IN ITS ROLE AS THE GOVERNING body of high school sports in this state, the Oregon School Activities Association has taken strides in recent years toward monitoring sportsmanship at the prep level.

In 1999, the OSAA began tracking the number of ejections in high school sports throughout Oregon, and that number has decreased by 30 percent since the study began.

Beginning this year, all high school coaches are required to be certified by the National Federation of State High School Association Coaches Education Program, which outlines sportsmanship for coaches as part of its mission.

Last week, the OSAA announced that a national group based in Eugene has agreed to help the sportsmanship cause.

Justice for Athletes, an advocacy group whose advisory board includes former Olympians Crissy Ahmann, Kathy Johnson Clarke, Ann Cribbs, Jeff Blatnick and Bill Toomey, has given the OSAA a $10,000 grant to purchase and distribute sportsmanship videos to every high school in Oregon.

The Parents as Partners in Citizenship video, which is produced by the NFSHA, runs for nearly 20 minutes, and it includes a workbook for discussing the video.

The OSAA will give each school a copy and is encouraging coaches, parents and students to watch and discuss what they see.

"We've worked hard over the last four or five years regarding sportsmanship with coaches, players and officials, but one group we haven't worked with specifically is parents," OSAA executive director Tom Welter said. "We are encouraging schools to show the video at preseason parent meetings and booster club meetings to get the message across that the proper role of parents is to be supportive, but also to keep in perspective the role of athletics and sports."

Justice for Athletes has supported the OSAA for a number of years, giving a $7,500 grant each year to fund what Welter calls the "Needy Student Fund." That program allows schools to purchase up to $50 in equipment for a student-athlete who needs financial assistance.

This year, Justice for Athletes agreed to give an additional grant to fund the sportsmanship video.

"We were thrilled to help out the OSAA," said Dr. Steven Ungerleider, a Eugene psychologist and author who is on the executive committee of Justice for Athletes.

"Sometimes things go on in youth sports like parents fighting with coaches, or calling coaches in the middle of the night, or kids fighting each other. This video shows the rules of the game and gives parents and coaches a dialogue to speak with kids about sportsmanship."

The mission of JFA is to use sports as a way to help kids build self-esteem, work well with others, develop a sense of fair play and ethics, and manage anger and stress.

"The focus of this group is to look at athletics as a vehicle for getting kids to focus on educational goals, respect teachers and understand that being on the field is just one part of the big equation," Ungerleider said.

When the OSAA approached Justice for Athletes about a grant for sportsmanship, JFA was impressed with the proposal.

"This program encourages athletic directors to sit with coaches, parents and kids and have discussions and write down comments and evaluations so we know they are using the video," Ungerleider said. "The OSAA doesn't want these tapes sitting on the shelf."

Welter said the OSAA plans to survey schools later in the year to see how many parents and students watched and discussed the video.

Justice for Athletes has existed for nearly seven years, and in addition to numerous Olympians, its board also includes Dr. Donna Lopiano, the executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation, and Craig Masback of USA Track & Field.

Ungerleider said there are about 20 members of JFA in Oregon, and that contingent has helped get grants for the OSAA.

"I am impressed with the OSAA and how they are able to do outreach into schools," Ungerleider said. "Our state is struggling to fund schools. I tell our trustees that I am biased, but I think we live in a state with a positive athletic environment although we are at a disadvantage because of budget cuts. Public school after-school programs have been hammered, and they have to be picked up by advocacy groups or individual donors. The OSAA has helped fill the void."

Ungerleider said he sees JFA getting even more involved with OSAA projects in the future.

"Justice for Athletes was very gracious to accept our proposal," Welter said. "They have been generous supporters of our mission, and very good for us to work with."

Steve Mims writes about prep sports for The Register-Guard. He can be reached at smims@guardnet.com.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Oct 29, 2002
Words:782
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