Hannah Maurais receives an award from Spruce Mountain coach Nicole Mason as teammate Harmony Castonguay looks on during the winter sports banquet in Jay on Wednesday evening. Maurais and Castonguay are members of the cheer team that was awarded the Good Sportsmanship Award in Class B South. (Sun Journal photo by Tony Blasi)

 

The Good Sportsmanship Award is coveted by athletic directors, coaches and administrators, who know it has been a banner season when their teams bring home that prized possession.

What a sportsmanship award means to a particular team is that those athletes were recognized for their graciousness during intense competition. That banner instills pride in the team, high school and community — and makes ADs beam with satisfaction.

Tony Blasi

In recent weeks, a handful of schools took home a state title and some were awarded sportsmanship banners. 

Go to any high school gym in Maine and take a good look around and you will see Good Sportsmanship Banners prominently displayed on the walls for all to see.

“Sportsmanship banners are extremely important to all of our programs in an educational setting,” Edward Little athletic director Todd Sampson said. “We talk to our coaches and athletes about doing things the right way. The team is proud when their peers from other school vote them for the award.

“Being selected as the best sportsmanship across the entire region is an incredible achievement. It is another opportunity to celebrate student success. Of course the ultimate goal of every program should be to win both the sportsmanship banner and the gold ball. 

“However, the sportsmanship banner often times is something within our control. Treating opponents and officials with respect. Acknowledging great play by an opponent is easy. Winning a state championship in any event takes tremendous talent, hard work and a little bit of luck.”

According to the Maine Principals’ Association’s website: “In the spring of 2007, the Maine Principals’ Association inaugurated its annual Sportsmanship Awards Program. The program is designed to foster sportsmanship in interscholastic activities by publicizing the examples of sportsmanship that are displayed by Maine’s high school competitors.”

So, being a good sport is a big deal for any Maine high school.

Good Sportsmanship Awards plaster the walls of Spruce Mountain High School’s Phoenix Dome in Jay. Sun Journal photo by Tony Blasi

“I look at sportsmanship banners as an honor, not only about the students’ abilities during competition but about their character,” Spruce Mountain athletic director Marc Keller said. “So many high school students are great people within the classrooms and hallways of the school, but those that can maintain those high standards while in the heat of competition are truly great people.”

The Spruce Mountain cheerleading team has won the the Good Sportsmanship Award the past two years in Class B South.

Look, when a team snatches a Class A hoop title thanks to some gangly athlete knocking down a game-winning 3-pointer with two seconds left, it makes for exciting television. There is no drama when a team earns a good sportsmanship accolade, but that banner, nonetheless, says it all.

I would bet a week’s pay that if you called out to kid on a championship-bound team and wished him luck in his team’s quest to earn the good sportsmanship banner, the kid would pause with a confused look, and say, “Yeah, whatever.”

A state title is every team’s holy grail, not to mention the aplomb that goes along with copping a trophy before a huge crowd at the Augusta Civic Center or the Portland Expo. Athletes want the hardware that comes with winning the crown, and even though a sportsmanship award is “nice,” it is not the gold ball.

“If you ask the students, it’s all about winning,” Keller said. “They have not developed the true understanding of how important good sporting behavior is. 

“My ultimate goal for my students is for them to win a state championship and a sportsmanship banner in the same season. It would take the right leadership at both the student-athlete and coach level for that to happen.” 

Keller said the sportsmanship banner is a necessity in the postseason for a number of reasons.

“They are a window into the character of our student-athletes,” Keller said. “I think that it allows others to recognize the type of student-athlete that you are dealing with; they have the qualities of character, integrity, respect, hard work and athletic ability.”

The Mt. Blue girls and boys cross country, girls soccer, cheering and boys Alpine ski teams each collected an MPA Good Sportsmanship Award, but whose counting, right?

Mt. Blue athletic director Chad Brackett is — and he is doing it with a big and proud smile on his face. 

“Very proud that Mt. Blue High School has 36 MPA Sportsmanship Banners hanging in our gym,” he said. “We have also received  several sportsmanship awards from other organizations (KVAC and various boards of officials). We are especially proud of the fact that 24 of those MPA banners have come since 2015.

“Anytime a team is recognized or distinguished for anything it is special. With the MPA Sportsmanship Awards, its even more special due to the fact that the award is voted on by the other teams and coaches that are competed against during the season.”

Those banners mean a great deal to Brackett for a variety of reasons.

“It shows that our teams do things the right way,” he said. “They represent their school and community in a way everyone can be proud of. 

“The collection of banners in our gym shows that across the spectrum, our kids and coaches are generally regarded as going about their business in a classy way.”

This recognition comes from being a good sport and the banner also proves that nice guys or gals really don’t finish last when they play with composure and respect for their opponents.