On Aug. 9, under the direction of Tooele High School athletic director Catham Beer, the first Tooele County School District Sportsmanship Summit took place at THS. More than 150 students from Stansbury, Tooele, Grantsville and Wendover high schools gathered to learn about sportsmanship and to discuss ways to increase the level of sportsmanship in the county.
“The best part of the sportsmanship summit was talking to the kids from the other schools,” Stansbury High spirit officer Carsen Cooper said. “It was more like friendship than being at each other’s throats.”
Many students echoed Cooper’s sentiments that getting to know students from other schools off the court or field and away from competition was key to understanding them and building better relationships.
“This is a great idea,” said Wendover athletic director Clayton Carter. “It is good for the kids to interact. Anything that promotes sportsmanship is great.”
“After the game, we are all still friends,” said Kelsee Johnson, a sophomore volleyball and softball player at Tooele. “Today, I learned that we need to help each other out instead of putting each other down, even on our own teams.”
Keynote speaker Cyler Sanderson, a two-time Division I All-American wrestler and current director of Sanderson Wrestling Academy, encouraged the students to take responsibility for their own actions and results.
“First, accept responsibility for yourself, then ensure your own success,” he said. “You do this by taking the things out of your life that are keeping you from your goal.”
He also talked about not making excuses, blaming others or feeling entitled.
“When you blame others for your results, it is a cancer to your success because it takes the responsibility off of you,” he said.
Sanderson’s words resounded with students who also enjoyed the leadership breakout session.
“This summit has been a really cool experience,” said senior Madisyn Francom, a member of the Larietts at Grantsville High. “I’ve learned a lot of pointers to make our team and our community better. The leadership skills we learned will help us be more unified and have better sportsmanship.”
Wendover’s Alana Henderson, a senior who is involved in volleyball, cross country, basketball and track as well as student government, really liked learning new communication skills and how to communicate as a leader.
“It was good to learn more qualities and skills of a leader so I can go back and teach these things to the students at my school,” Henderson said.
Following the keynote address, students adjourned to the gym to demonstrate sportsmanship skills as they relaxed and engaged in various games of volleyball, basketball, spike ball, and other activities. Three breakout sessions followed the games, focusing on leadership, sportsmanship, and solutions.
The leadership session discussed qualities and skills to build leaders. The sportsmanship session instructed students on the new Utah High School Activities Association sportsmanship policy for athletes, coaches and fans, while the solutions workshop allowed students to identify areas of opportunity to improve sportsmanship and to develop solutions.
Many of the students identified student-led cheers and chants as an area that could be improved. They said leaders within the student sections need to work on cheering for their own team and not against the other team.
“It’s not life or death,” one student said. “We need to keep perspective and not make generalizations about other schools or teams.”
Stansbury athletic director Trever Wilson agreed, while adding that adults also play a role.
“Parents are the biggest problem,” Wilson said. “They think it is life or death. If parents could understand it’s a game and lose with dignity it would change things. I think it is a great idea to bring all of the schools together and create solutions.”
The summit received high praise from attendees, athletic directors and district leadership. Beer plans to share student sportsmanship solutions with principals of each of the schools next time they gather.
As the summit wrapped up, students in attendance participated in a drawing for gift cards from local businesses. Beer thanked Chubby’s, UEC Theatres, American Burger, Guzzle, Roxberry, Dairy Delight and the Tooele County School District for their donations and support of the summit.