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Sportsmanship Scores Points On Local Athletic Teams

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Many Triangle residents will start their holiday weekend at a football game, excited that a new season is here.

Of course, the players are passionate about their sport, sometimes throwing sportsmanship out the door. As the new season begins, there is a new emphasis on better coach and athlete behavior.

Fans notice when a player gets thrown out of a game. But do they notice when no one is ejected? Some people are, and they are handing out awards for it.

On Friday nights, the action happens on the field. After that, it happens in Athens Drive football coach Ron Wheeler's office -- over and over again.

"I'll sit and watch the same play 11 times," Wheeler said. "I'll watch each player."

Watching the tape allows Wheeler to not only review how well his athletes played in the game, but also how well they acted while they played.

Sportsmanship is scoring more points nowadays.

"This is good as long as it is not taunting," Wheeler said as he watched a player celebrate a good play. "We don't want that, officials rally cracking down on that."

Bad behavior gets attention. Tape of Major League manager Lou Pinella throwing second base when he is angry about an umpire's call gets played over and over again.

All that attention is creating a shift in bad behavior.

"If they can do it on TV, they can do it out here on the field," Wheeler said. "I don't want that reputation."

Athens Drive does not have it. The school is one of eight Wake County high schools that received an award for not having any players or coaches ejected during a game last year.

The other schools were Fuquay-Varina, Cary, Green Hope, Leesville, Middle Creek, Southeast and Wake Forest-Rolesville. Fuquay-Varina won for the third straight year.

So we know which North Carolina high schools received zero percent bad behavior. But it is the colleges in this school year that will let us know how much of this bad behavior is going on.

Division III schools like Peace College will track bad behavior for 17 sports this school year. Volleyball coach Heather Daniels said it is another way to compete and learn differences between sports and between women and men.

"I don't think it will be that different," Daniels said. "I'll be surprised if it is because women are just as competitive as men."

Daniels said she does not expect to see an outrageous number of ejections or technical fouls. But she said the data will give schools something to think about in Div. III and Div. I and II schools.

As for high schools, nearly half of the North Carolina Athletic Association schools went ejection-free last year.

Although last year was a record year for sportsmanship across the state, more than half of 351 high schools, 202, had someone ejected from a game last year. That is an improvement over the previous year, when even more schools reported sportsmanship problems.


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