Eagles earn AA North Sportsmanship Award

Basketball teams honored with sportsmanship awards – By Stephanie Coffin

The Windham Eagle – http://sports.thewindhameagle.com/

It has been a long time in coming for both the girls and boys Basketball teams at Windham High School and to get this award in the same season for the same sport is a recognizable event.  Last Saturday night both teams attended the Championship games at the Civic Center to accept sportsmanship banners on behalf of Windham High School.

“To date WHS has won seven MPA good sportsmanship banners this school year:  Boys cross country, girls cross country, golf, field hockey and volleyball.  Recently we were notified that boys and girls basketball are each recipients of this honor bringing the total for the year to seven banners.  To win one sportsmanship banner in any given school year is a feat and something to be proud of but to be a part of seven with the spring season still to go is something special.  It’s always nice to have competitive teams but to have competitive teams who add this to the mix is outstanding,” said RSU14 athletic director Rich Drummond.

Rich Drummond has been the main reason the athletic programs have been honored with so many sportsmanship awards this year. He has been vital in my first year as a coach and is consistently reminding me since I was hired of the importance of sportsmanship,” said boys varsity coach Chad Pulkkinen.

The sportsmanship award isn’t an individual award but a team award, to have all the players work together can be a tough feat.

“High school athletics teaches you how to deal with adversity, and maintaining a positive attitude on and off the court allows you to get over bumps in the road quickly and move on the next game,” said girls varsity coach Brody Artes.

“Coming in as a new coach, culture was the most important aspect I wanted to build up within our team/program.  All our coaches echoed my demands on how we wanted to conduct ourselves at practice, on the bus, at home and at away games and in the classroom.  We felt if we continued to remind them of the importance of body language, attitude and being good teammates that our culture would strengthen.  The kids really took ownership of their actions and represented Windham positively throughout the season,” said Pulkkinen. “Zach LaCombe and Kyle Kilfoil never got rattled or showed any signs of poor body language in any situation.  They never lost their composure.  When you have that type of an example, especially with the young team we have, it becomes contagious. I think that is a reflection of the parents and how these kids are raised.”

Artes agreed. “When coaching an athletic team it’s important to make sure that you coach emotions as well as skills.  It’s important to foster a level of confidence in your players so that they can compete at a high level, but it’s also equally important to prepare your players for the emotional side of the game.  Basketball is a game of runs, and with each game comes those moments in which you go on an 8-0 run, or the other team goes on a 10-0 run, and you have to be mentally prepared to handle that and deal with that throughout the season.  We talk a lot about what our reactions should be to the physical mistakes that we make on the floor, and a lot of times those physical reactions to mistakes have to come with a positive mental reaction on the very next play.”

“As their coach, I feel responsible for the way they act on the court during the course of a game,”Artes continued, “but I also think the girls did a very good job at maintaining composure this year and holding each other accountable.  We played at South Portland this year when SMAA Player of the Year Maddie Hasson achieved her 1,000 career point, and several South Portland parents, school officials and community members approached me after the game saying how much of a class act our players were, as well as our parents.”

When a team shows an un-sportsmanship behavior it doesn’t go unnoticed.  In fact it can be talked about beyond the game and beyond the season and effect a school and its students as it trickles down into the schools other sports.  One game in particular this season stands out for Coach Pulkkinen which he comments on and how his team handled the situation: “It is easier to lose your composure on the road as a player, especially in a hostile environment.  Our players were challenged from every aspect in an away game this year that involved a very hostile crowd.  A crowd, quite frankly that was allowed to go over the line throughout the game.  Our players ignored the noise, never engaged in the crowd and stuck together.  After we were defeated, an opposing player approached an underclassman on our team with an aggressive derogatory comment while in the presence of one our coaches.  A lot of emotions occur when you lose, when you are on the road and when things do not go your way.  Our young player handled himself the best I have ever seen anyone handle themselves faced in that situation.  I was extremely proud of that player and the maturity he showed in such a difficult scenario.  His actions off the court that night were bigger than any victory we had all season.”

“For the boys team to win this award for the first time in over 20 years is truly a representation of our administration, athletic department and the parents.  Our student athletes at WHS are consistently exemplifying what the school leaders and community is all about.  It is an unbelievable honor to achieve the first AA North Sportsmanship Award and I am so proud of our guys for the way they handled themselves as student-athletes throughout the year,” Pulkkinen said.

“At the end of the day, all of the adults involved (coaches, parents, administrators, community members, etc.) in a player’s high school athletics experience should hope that we prepare our athletes to be a positive influence on society after high school, and if we work together to achieve that for all of our student-athletes, then we have done our job – regardless of the outcome of a game,” Artes concluded.

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