Plum student-athletes join peers at annual WPIAL summit
More than 600 student-athletes from all over the WPIAL gathered last week to discuss their roles in creating a stronger leadership environment through sportsmanship both on and off the field of play.
The annual WPIAL Summit on Sportsmanship at the Sen. John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh allowed the students to share experiences and discuss ways to keep the spirit of leadership and sportsmanship flowing, not only through the WPIAL but in all interactions in sports and in life.
“Anytime we can promote sportsmanship, we should do it,” Norwin athletic director Randy Rovesti said.
“You can never talk about sportsmanship and respect enough — respect for the game, respect for your peers and respect for your coaches. It's unfortunate we couldn't bring more people. This is a nice day. It's upbeat, with good kids. It reinforces what good kids we have throughout the region.”
Student-athletes from Plum — Angelena Borriello, Lyndi Gareis, Austin O'Block, Jake DiGuilio and Matt Dombrowski — joined fellow student-athletes from more than 100 WPIAL schools at the summit.
Dombrowski said the ability to interact with other students, talking about ways Plum athletes show good sportsmanship on and off the field, and being able to take information and ideas back to fellow Mustangs student-athletes made the summit a meaningful experience.
The Plum students also were reminded that they are visible representatives of their school, their families, their classmates and the community when they interact with others in sports and nonports settings.
Swin Cash, a basketball champion at the collegiate, international and professional levels, once was in the same spot as many of the student-athletes at the summit.
Sportsmanship and respect for family, teachers, coaches and teammates, as well as hard work on the court and in the classroom growing up in McKeesport, opened doors for her and helped her win two NCAA championships at UConn, two Olympic gold medals and three WNBA championships.
“Find your place in sports,” Cash said.
“Use (sports) as a platform. Don't let it use you. With visibility comes responsibility.”
Responsibility was echoed during the event with reflection on the “Five Good Deeds on Game Day” that student-athletes can remember beyond the stats and the final score.
The deeds of thanking people for their efforts to make an athletic event special, cleaning up after oneself when visiting a school and picking someone up when a teammate or an opponent has fallen are ways to make an impact through sportsmanship, said Dan Cardone, the athletic director at North Hills and one of the chief coordinators for the annual Summit on Sportsmanship.
Other deeds Cardone shared with the audience are complimenting someone after a hard-fought competition — something that can and should extend to coaches, parents and fans — and being better than everyone else through hard work and discipline before, during and after the game whistle blows.
“The summit gives (the student-athletes) some strategies to share with their teammates or classmates on what's right with sports or where we fall short,” Cardone said.
“Hopefully, they learn lessons about how to handle adversity the right way. It's not only about getting up but how to handle getting up with class.”
Tom Bradley, the former defensive coordinator at Penn State who now serves as a local Pittsburgh Steelers radio analyst, shared the theme of respect through the saying, “It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game.”
Respect, he said, is shown through honoring the game itself, as well as teammates, coaches and opponents.
“That's all involved in sportsmanship,” Bradley said. “Sportsmanship doesn't end when the game is over. It's just the beginning.”
B. Elliot Hopkins, the director of educational services for the National Federation of State High School Associations returned to speak at the summit. He said he always is impressed with the student-athletes in the WPIAL, not only by their accomplishments on the field but because of what they do in the classroom and community.
“You sometimes can't control you're God-given gift,” he said.
“The fact that you can run fast or shoot a ball is kind of out of your control. But what kind of character you have and how you give back to younger teammates or the smaller ones in your community is more important than the numbers.”
The WPIAL honored four high schools — Hampton, Summit Academy, South Fayette and Central Valley — with its annual sportsmanship awards.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.