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MPSSAA Sportsmanship Committee Releases Plan of Action

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) has released a Plan of Action to its membership as a framework for continuous intentional focus on positive behaviors associated with interscholastic athletics. The MPSSAA believes the ultimate indicator of the value of school athletic programs must be the level of citizenship displayed by those who participate. The current MPSSAA Respect the Game initiative, which began as a student-led task force, focuses on the importance of all individuals associated with education-based athletics doing their part to promote good sportsmanship.  


Continuous and intentional actions by all members of the education-based athletic community must be taken to persevere and protect the competitive opportunities of each generation of student participants.  The MPSSAA believes taking a more proactive approach and stronger stance on sportsmanship is critical for the future operations and sustainability of interscholastic athletics in Maryland.  


Ramifications of Inaction?

These are the facts . . . 


Shortage of Officials

  • Shortage of officials across the state and country due to inappropriate coach, student-athlete, parent/guardian and fan behavior directed toward them.

  • The profession is shrinking to levels that can no longer sustain demand, forcing contests  to alternative dates, times and locations and sometimes without a full officiating crew.

  • Officials are crucial to the continuity of interscholastic athletic programs and sustaining the integrity of competition. 


Coaching Practices Not Aligned with Education-Based Athletics

  • Failure to model and promote sportsmanship prior to, during, and after competitions.

  • Increase in inappropriate behavior after wins and losses - failing to win with humility and lose with grace.

  • Failure to demonstrate appropriate handling of adversity in an athletic environment.

  • Lack of respect towards opponents - running up scores, demoralizing defeats, focusing on winning and individual statistics only.

Unwelcoming Environments

  • Continued reports of racial slurs and discriminatory practices connected with interscholastic athletics.

  • Increase in inflammatory social media posts.

  • Student sections focused on disrupting the opposing team instead of supporting their own team.

  • Athletic competitions being moved to alternative times and locations due to crowd-related concerns.


Decrease in Coaches

  • Lack of respect from student-athletes and parents/guardians.

  • Parents/guardians regularly question their decision making.

  • Lack of respect from opponents - running up scores, questionable coaching practices, focus on winning only.

  • Frustration with “win at all cost” actions.


Immediate Action


The MPSSAA Sportsmanship Committee will support local educational agencies in the following:


High school athletics are inherently education-based so we need to TEACH and to find new innovative ways to promote and model good sportsmanship.  We cannot forget about and must reward all the “GOOD” (which far outweighs all the ``bad'') that is happening throughout our state.  We need to move toward a “zero tolerance” approach to poor sportsmanship. High school athletics are 100% optional extracurricular activities, and the privilege to participate or attend may be taken away from those who cannot demonstrate proper sportsmanship and/or basic civility on the field or in the stands.


Proactive Measures

  • Developing new and relevant educational resources for member schools, coaches, student-athletes, parents/guardians and fans.

  • Continue Fall, Winter and Spring Officials Appreciation Weeks.


Reward Focuses

  • “Catch ‘em being good” approach to sportsmanship.

  • Increasing recognition of good sportsmanship at both the county and state level.


Enforcement Mechanisms

  • Moving towards a ZERO TOLERANCE approach to student-athlete, coach, fan and parent/guardian discipline.

  • Examining and instituting additional sport-specific coaching rules which align with education-based athletics.




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