The Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League is once again investigating allegations of slurs at a local sporting event.
If it sounds familiar, it’s because the same thing happened a year ago. Connellsville students, fans and players were accused of hurling racial slurs against black Penn Hills players at a soccer game, which led to investigations, hearings and Penn Hills postponing games of all kinds against Connellsville until it was resolved.
Now Connellsville is being accused of using more slurs, this time directed at black and Hispanic soccer players for Pittsburgh Allderdice. They kicked the ball back to Allderdice in a statement alleging players from the city school made the first attack with homophobic comments to one of the Connellsville players.
Wouldn’t it be great if the only thing that mattered on a soccer field was how you played the game?
And that doesn’t just mean who scored what goal and what the goalie’s save percentage was. No, it also means if the game was won in a way that showed the athletes on the field were sportsmen, not just players.
According to WPIAL’s mission statement, the organization’s goal surrounds showing “interscholastic athletics as an integral part of a student’s educational experience.”
That’s a good thing. Sports has the potential to be a rich and important part of a kid’s learning environment.
But what sports is supposed to teach them is also spelled out on the WPIAL’s website. It isn’t kicking and throwing, running and jumping. It’s “the safety of participants, sportsmanship, citizenship and lifelong values.” The effort and teamwork develop those skills that can be carried through life. So does cheering them on.
There is nothing about beating down your opponent with ugly words that is safe or sporting. There is nothing about belittling your competition’s lifestyle or background that makes you a good citizen. Those aren’t values you can list on a resume or use when you volunteer in the community.
Our kids can learn great things from athletics.
We just have to remember there is a difference between being good sports and being good at sports, and one of those is a lot more important than the other.