Sportsmanship: Another banner for Sussex Central High School

GEORGETOWN — Make room for another banner.

Sussex Central High School continues to make the grade in sportsmanship, earning Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association kudos for a third consecutive year.

Sussex Central was one of 21 schools statewide honored with the DIAA’s Sportsmanship Award for the 2015-16 year.

“Sportsmanship is nothing more than an extension of what you see; citizenship on the playing field, whether that be on the court, in the pool or any athletics,” said Sussex Central High School Principal Dr. Bradley Layfield. “Sportsmanship is nothing but teaching citizenship: how to be humble winners and not sore losers, humble losers as well when it happens.”

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Sussex Central High School has earned the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association Sportsmanship Award for a third consecutive year. Pictured is the presentation for last year, the 2014-15 school year.

“All of these schools are led by energetic and innovative Sportsmanship Committees that are constantly looking for new ways to promote sportsmanship,” DIAA Executive Director Tommie Neubauer said.  “They truly embrace the philosophy that sportsmanship is not just something you talk about but a way of life for all student-athletes and team members that is demonstrated by your behavior and actions. This belief is an essential component of education-based athletics.”

Dr. Layfield points to Sussex Central’s mission statement. It states “we are a diverse and dynamic community and we strive to prepare students to be life-long learners and the important part of that, responsible, global citizens.”

The sportsmanship competition is offered annually by the DIAA.

Member schools compete against a set of 10 standards, not against other schools.

It’s a demanding process and involves total school community involvement.

Member schools submit an extensive application book that is judged by the Sportsmanship Committee to determine if each school has successfully met the standards.

Sussex Central’s binder for the 2015-16 season is about 4 ½ inches thick. It contains newspaper articles, game reports and other items, both positive and negative.

“Any time there is an unsportsmanlike penalty or a game ejection, what do we do to follow up after that? How has the student learned from that?’ said Dr. Layfield. “And there are the anecdotal things where folks write letters or just a quick note, whether that be officials, opposing coaches, opposing fans. We’ve been fortunate over the last few years to have gotten many of those, saying ‘How much it was noticeable that your team was very respectful.’”

“It really truly is a binder that is the story of all that was athletics at Sussex Central for an entire year, with that focus on not the winning and losing but on how our students are growing as citizens from their involvement in interscholastic athletics,” said Dr. Layfield.

Artie Uhlich, Sussex Central’s school safety monitor, is the chairman of the Sussex Central Sportsmanship Committee.

“He really deserves the lion’s share of the credit. He archives any and every athletics related newspaper article. He does a lot to help our guidance department with scholarships,” said Dr. Layfield. “He has really done a lot to bring some of those positives to our student athletes and support the guidance department in kind of targeting the highlighting the kids that best fit the needs of certain scholarships.”

Should a negative occur, the goal is to turn it into something positive.

“Obviously what prevention and response plans do we have when students – let’s face it they are teenagers – make a mistake in the heat of a game?” said Dr. Layfield. “For example, football season is right around the corner. Any time there is a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct that athlete is addressed immediately by the coach. But there is a follow-up. With a Friday night game there is a follow-up the following Monday with the coach, the athletic director and sometimes myself as the principal or an assistant principal gets involved. And we reflect on it. We say, ‘How could we have recovered from that a little quicker and not gotten down our ourselves?”

“Obviously game ejections and things of that nature which come with mandated penalties, sometimes we extend that even further as a school just to let students know that obviously we don’t lose our cool and, in the end it is just a game,” said Dr. Layfield. “As important as it is and as competitive as I am and our student athletes are, we want to let them know first and foremost it is not worth having damage done to your character or your reputation over a bad call or something that didn’t go your way.”

The Golden Knight scope extends beyond the athletic arena. And it starts with pre-season meetings for fall, winter and spring sports with coaches, teams and administration.

Sussex Central salutes athletes with monthly awards.

“We recognize our athletes of month for every team, athlete of the season and coach of the season, to highlight and celebrate all of the good things that are going on as well,” said Dr. Layfield. “It doesn’t just say how many yards little Johnny got out on the football field this month or he had a really big game but a lot more goes into it. How active are these students in other school organizations, in community organizations? What kind of grades are they getting? How have they gone above and beyond either on the athletic field and in school just to be good citizens? That is a piece of it.”

So with start of the fall season, Sussex Central will begin its quest for a fourth sportsmanship award.

“Every year we lose seniors and we get a new crop of freshmen coming in and we rely on the student athletes that are still with us to teach the younger generation the ‘Sussex Central Way.’ We are fortunate where we typically have stability in a lot of our coaching staffs,” said Dr. Layfield. “Yeah, it has been three years in a row. If we keep doing what we are doing, we are likely to continue getting the award. But we don’t just rest on our laurels. What can we do extend this even further year after year after year? What extra layer can we add to this?”

William Penn leads the pack, having earned the sportsmanship award 19 years in the 20-year history of the DIAA program.

“William Penn is obviously the leader in the state. They really have been the gold standard,” Dr. Layfield said. “That is where I would envision seeing Sussex Central in another five or 10 years.”

Sussex Tech High School earned the DIAA award for the 10th time.

Other Sussex County schools/districts honored include Woodbridge.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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