Taking A Look At Wisconsin’s Sportsmanship Rules

Taking A Look At Wisconsin’s Sportsmanship Rules

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association recently released a 33-page “Sportsmanship Reference Guide” which was a good idea and is filled with many great topics and items, until you open the guide and understand why Jay Bilas felt the need to troll the publication and the high school athletic association. WIAA Sportsmanship Reference Guide (PDF) In

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association recently released a 33-page “Sportsmanship Reference Guide” which was a good idea and is filled with many great topics and items, until you open the guide and understand why Jay Bilas felt the need to troll the publication and the high school athletic association.

WIAA Sportsmanship Reference Guide (PDF)

In the guide, it talks about the Sportsmanship Committee:

The WIAA Sportsmanship Committee, established in 1997, meets annually to advice the WIAA on establishing policies and creating initiatives to improve and promote sportsmanship at all interscholastic athletic events.

The sportsmanship committee consists of administrators from schools representing small, medium and large school districts from around the state.  A term of three years is served by committee members with an option for a maximum of two successive terms.

Announcements regarding committee vacancies and procedural information for anyone willing to serve on the committee will be printed in the Bulletin.

That, right there, makes it seem that Wisconsin has everything together when it comes to promoting positive sportsmanship from its schools, athletes, supporters, coaches, and administrators.  The guide goes on to talk about the Fundamentals of Sportsmanship, Sportsmanship Expectations, Spectator/Crowd Conduct Policies, and more. A lot of what is written in the guide is spot on and is intended to provide a positive experience at high school sports events and was probably borne from some extreme situations in which students overstepped their bounds at a time in their lives when part of their education and learning is boundaries.

There was obviously a lot of hard work and time put into putting this together, especially noting all the different letters they wrote to make it easy for administrators which is posted at the back of the guide.

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It’s in the Sportsmanship Expectations, however on page six that things start to unravel.

Public Address Announcer

Be impartial.  Announce the contest with no show of favoritism

Really?  Ok.  This is understandable on the surface when you’re talking about a tournament, but when you really dive down into the document, you start to see where it’s going.  We have always recommended to all announcers to announce BOTH sides with enthusiasm, with slightly more added to the home team to add to a home-court advantage as this enhances the atmosphere for those in attendance at events and encourages attendance at future events.  The WIAA disagrees with us; however, how many of us have been to a gym or stadium only to hear the announcer scream for his/her team and barely give the opposition the time of day.  This example is an extreme and needs to be addressed, some favoritism should be acceptable, but respect should also always be given to the opponents.

Some of their other bullet points include a lot of what we already preach:

  • Use proper language at all times (don’t curse)
  • Be enthusiastic, but calm (don’t scream)
  • Do not attempt to “talk over the crowd” (so many announcers talk when the crowd is cheering loudest, let the noise die down)
  • Do not anticipate or second guess calls by officials or criticize official’s decisions, directly or indirectly (well, you do need to anticipate calls sometimes to help you with your announcements, but do this in your head and not on the mic)

Several others make obvious sense and include some of the topics that have been discussed on SportsAnnouncing.com.  Click the link at the top of the post to read the whole guide.

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Page 8 is where it starts to come apart when they lead with “Recorded Music” under the Spectator/Crowd Conduct Policies.

Recorded Music

All audible music used before, during and following a contest must be reviewed and have school administration approval.  Lyrics may not be lewd, offensive or profane and must be appropriate for an educational setting.  Recorded music is allowed before an after contests, during warm-ups, between periods or during time-outs.  It is not allowed during playing action or brief pauses during playing action (between pitches, plays, assessing penalties/fouls/infractions).

Nonschool (sic) facilities such as hockey rinks should be advised about the restrictions on recorded music in advance.  It is understood that State events may have separate and/or different restrictions on noisemakers and recorded music.

We are completely and totally on board with this until the last sentence of the first paragraph.  There is so much gray area when it comes to “brief pauses” that you can wind up creating a boring atmosphere out of fear.  Does this mean you can’t play music during stoppages in hockey?  And how long is a brief pause?  This is understandable in basketball and soccer, but baseball, hockey, and football have long breaks between plays that can exceed 20 seconds.  These times were tailor made for musical interludes to help keep attention to the game.

Then, page 10 happens.  This is where the list of cheers and chants that are considered unsportsmanlike begins.  And jaws begin to drop.  And sports reporters begin to tweet.

Some of the chants are staples at sports events and are so much part of it that people almost expect some of these.  This is how students try to enhance their experience in high school.  Some of them do address fairly suggestive chants like “Nuts n’ Bolts” and “Push it, push it, push it” that are stepping over the line.  But some of the others are as harmless as “holding up papers or props during opponent introductions”, “air ball”, “scoreboard”, or “waving arms or making movements or sudden noises in an attempt to distract an opponent”.

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But, how can you say the wave is disrespectful?

17.  Fan participation activities while the game is actually being played (i.e. roller coaster, the wave, etc.)
Disrespectful to the game/event and the competitors by drawing attention away from the activity.

Ummm, this is part of the activity of going to a scholastic sports event.  It allows the students to engage in the game in such a way that they feel they’re part of the experience, not detracting from it.  Basically, students are being told they’re not allowed to have fun, because after this list, it seems that any organized cheer, chant or activity is against the rules.  Sports is supposed to be a means of a stress release of sorts, however there’s so much undue stress added that students may decide to just not go to the game.  It should be safe to say that this is not the intended goal of the WIAA.

Two that we agree with wholeheartedly.

24. Not standing at attention during the National Anthem or excessive talking, chanting, yelling or movement during the playing/singing of the anthem
Directed in a disrespectful manner to the country and to the performers of the anthem.
25.  Throwing of any object by fans or competitors throwing/hitting equipment (pucks, balls, bats, helmets, etc.)
Disrespectful, dangerous and may be considered a criminal act.

Absolutely WIAA, if you suggested supplemental discipline for students who violate either of these to also include possible temporary dismissal of students from school, we wouldn’t have an issue with that at all.  Don’t disrespect the anthem, and don’t throw objects.

Unfortunately, and we’ve seen this before in other states, adults come together to regulate what students can and cannot do, and wind up going off the deep end whether intentional or not.  With the backlash from this, hopefully they’ll recognize that interscholastic athletic programs are truly a means of students to show school pride, raise revenue for schools and to provide an atmosphere that encourages conflict-resolution in an educational setting.

There are many, many, good things in the document provided by WIAA, however there are many that make you go, “hmmm” and it’s the backlash from that which is overshadowing all the good that is already there.

Jarrod Wronski

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