by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 2-20-2013
NEWPORT — United Christian Academy was the recipient of the 2012 Mona Garone Outstanding Sportsmanship award on Saturday afternoon. The award, issued by the Vermont Basketball Referees, recognizes good sportsmanship, which the teams have constantly exhibited under the leadership of UCA Athletic Director Linda Curtis.
“Sports can be an emotional event for players, fans and coaches,” referee Bruce James said after the award presentation. “In the many years I’ve been officiating UCA games, I can count only a few times when a UCA player has acted out, and Linda was quick to take that player aside, talk to them and help them refocus. They never caused another problem, and I think much of that credit goes to Linda’s leadership.”
Ms. Curtis downplayed her own role in developing the culture of respect that UCA teams have displayed over the years. Their commitment to respectful play on and off the court or the soccer pitch is as much a reflection of the core values of UCA as it is the result of her own intervention, she said.
“We’ve always emphasized to our kids that they are representing our school and what it stands for,” Ms. Curtis said. “The players and the coaches have done a wonderful job of remembering that.”
Indeed, after a team huddle UCA players often prepare for a return to action by chanting “represent.” That subtle reminder of who they are and the values they bring to their lives in and out of sports is very important to them, Ms. Curtis said.
The award may be directly tied to UCA’s basketball tams, but it transcends a single sport, boys varsity coach Tony DeLaBruere said.
“It’s really an award for the whole school and not just a few teams,” he said. “It’s something that stems from the coaches, the teachers, the players, and especially Linda.”
The practice of gracious sportsmanship extends to the families and friends of UCA’s players, as well, Mr. DeLaBruere said.
“It’s sometimes meant that we have played games by closer margins than we might otherwise have had,” Mr. DeLaBruere said. “It’s fun to coach those games knowing that we have played a good game, a game we can be proud of.”
Those tight games are the ones where emotions are likeliest to run high, Mr. James said. In spite of that, UCA’s players, coaches and fans have always proven themselves respectful to their counterparts on and off the court.
“They have never abused the officials and tried to leverage that for some political advantage,” Mr. James said. “They go out and play hard, but they do it respectfully. A lot of that goes back to the fact that Linda not only expects good sportsmanship but she demands it.”
With all of the external pressures on sports teams to succeed, earning this award has even more meaning, Ms. Curtis said. The win-at-all-costs attitude that pervades sporting contests both at the professional and amateur levels often leaves little room for cultivating good sportsmanship.
“It’s certainly harder to accomplish today, but I think it just shows that we’re doing our job,” Ms. Curtis said. “We really push that we are representing our school. Good sportsmanship is definitely what UCA stands for.”
In accepting the award on behalf of the school, Ms. Curtis indicated that she would be stepping down as athletic director at the end of the school year.
“Getting this award in my final year is a really nice way to go out,” Ms. Curtis said. “But it was never about me and what I did. It was about what we accomplished as a school.”
contact Richard Creaser at [email protected]