Social Media and Sportsmanship: How do they work together?

MIAA14thcontestflyerCongratulations to Mark Agostinelli for being selected as a finalist in the 14th Annual MIAA Student Sportsmanship Essay/Multimedia Contest: “Social Media and Sportsmanship, How do they work together?” Students from across the state participated in this year’s contest. Members of the MIAA Sportsmanship Committee narrowed down the field to create a collection of finalist and honorable mention essays that were published in “Sportsmanship: A Game Plan for Life – Volume XIV”  and distributed to to MIAA member schools. The MIAA would like to express its sincere appreciation for this outstanding contribution by presenting two copies of the publication to Sturgis Charter Public School. Sturgis East and West Libraries each have a copy of the publication.

Social Media and Sportsmanship: How do they work together?

By Mark Agostinelli, Class of 2017 – East

Mark Agostinelli

Mark Agostinelli

High school sports undoubtedly get very competitive, whether for a state title, a league championship, or just bragging rights between two local rivals.  There have been many cases when aggressiveness has led to bad sportsmanship; but now, through the emergence of social media, the whole online world can learn of acts of poor conduct and condemn them.  More importantly, social media can be used to encourage and reward positive gamesmanship.

In December 2010, basketball player Mason Holland from Desoto High School in Arcadia, Florida, slammed a referee to the ground after receiving a technical foul. Because of his poor sportsmanship, he was suspended from school and faced criminal charges. However, the story did not end there. A fan who had been video-taping the game posted the clip on YouTube. The disturbing video of the incident went viral, quickly amassing over a million views. Viewers commented on YouTube and resorted to social media sites such as Twitter to discuss the incident. They made the decision not to let bad sportsmanship go unnoticed. Soon after, the video earned attention on ESPN.com and its TV segment Sports Center, which interviewed the coach who described the “totally unacceptable behavior.” By spreading awareness nationwide, social media turned this negative event into a great learning lesson.

Yet, not everyone needs to wait for negative events in order to use social media in a positive way. Two states, Michigan and New York, each participate in the state-wide high school contest known as Battle of the Fans: a program that highlights the “best student cheering sections… that promote positive sportsmanship.” Schools are judged on criteria such as participation, school spirit, originality of cheers, organization, and overall FUN! This has proven very successful. In Michigan’s third year of the contest, 25 schools competed, and their application videos were watched by nearly 12,500 people.

Schools begin by filming their student bleacher section during a sporting event. Some students use face paint and dress up in their school colors to support their team with many outrageous chants and songs while jumping like jellybeans. Three schools are chosen as finalists by the state’s interscholastic athletic associations; and people then vote through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Last year’s finalists filmed their ecstatic students cheering with school colors, horns, and even a Santa Claus. The contests encouraged students to use Twitter throughout the fall and winter when they have a great student section idea or when they see an act of great sportsmanship. The winning school receives a championship banner for their school gym.

So is it time for Massachusetts to develop its own Battle of the Fans? Yes! As shown through the success in Michigan and New York, social media can be used to teach all athletes the value of positive conduct in sports. By developing our own Battle of the Fans, Massachusetts schools will have even more incentive to play with good gamesmanship and have fun at the same time.

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