Byline: John Radtke
First of two parts.
When Whitney Young High School prepared to accept its state Class AA basketball championship trophy for the 1997-98 season in Peoria this past March, school principal Joyce Kenner had tears in her eyes.
And they had nothing to do with the piece of hardware the Dolphins were about to accept.
Kenner's emotions were centered around her school receiving the Illinois High School Association's sportsmanship banner.
"She went absolutely bonkers over winning that award," said IHSA executive director Dave Fry.
"She held it up, waved it to the crowd and said, 'This is what I'm most proud of.' That was the epitome of the successful (state tournament) experience to her."
It made Fry proud as well, to see someone that touched over a sportsmanship issue. Sportsmanship has been one of Fry's pet projects over the last several years.
A year ago, Fry initiated the first-ever IHSA/IESA Sportsmanship Summit. Held over two days in Springfield, the summit drew over 400 people - students, teachers, coaches, athletic directors and officials were all in attendance as well as the media.
A corporate sponsor and a new mascot were introduced and a high profile keynote speaker, University of Illinois women's basketball coach Theresa Grentz, were on the agenda.
Monday and Tuesday of next week, the IHSA will host its second annual summit. And while this one won't be a two-day gala affair - Monday's will be at Northern Illinois and Tuesday's at Illinois State - Fry is hoping the message of sportsmanship continues to spread.
"We believe the campaign has had a positive impact so far," Fry said earlier this week. "It's difficult to measure scientifically just how people's attitudes are playing out but we noted the quantity of written reports of positive incidents of sportsmanlike behavior have increased dramatically over the past year and that's a real encouragement."
Some numbers don't lie and the IHSA's numbers tell us that the program has had an impact.
Through Sept. 21 of last year, the IHSA had received 309 "special reports." Most of those dealt with ejection reports filed by officials.
This year, to the same day, that number had dropped dramatically to just 154.
"We also know that an increasing number of schools are booking the Add A. Tude mascot for appearances and doing other things locally to promote sportsmanship," Fry said.
One of the places that will happen Saturday is at Grayslake High School.
The annual Fox Valley Conference cheerleader's Spirit Clinic will be held in the school's fieldhouse at 1 p.m. Add A. Tude will appear and retiring IHSA associate executive director Don Robinson will address the group.
But despite Grayslake hosting a sportsmanship-related event on Saturday, the school's athletic director, Dan Dillon, still has his reservations when it comes to sportsmanship.
"Sportsmanship is a huge issue and it's not getting better," said Dillon, also the school's head football coach. …