Athletic leadership conference held at MSHS

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Athletic leadership conference held at MSHS

Mieke Hart, Staff Writer

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I, along with 100 high school athletes from all seven schools in the O-K Black Conference – Fruitport, Jenison, Kenowa Hills, Mona Shores, Muskegon, Reeths-Puffer, and Union – congregated in the Shores Library Media Center to discuss the promotion and importance of sportsmanship in high school athletic competition on Dec. 14.

I participated in many activities; however, the Privilege Race conducted by Keith Guy and Ken Erny, the athletic directors for Muskegon and Fruitport high schools respectively, was one activity that made a truly lasting impression on me as well as the other students who participated.

Each of us was directed to line up shoulder-to-shoulder across the Library Media Center. The athletic directors informed the us that we will be racing for $100; however, there had to be an adjustment before the race commenced.

The athletic directors then read down a list of statements that would reveal one’s privilege. For each statement that applied to one’s life, that student was supposed to take one step forward.

For example, if the statement was “Both of my parents are married and living in the same home,” those whose parents are married and living in the same home stepped forward. At the end of the list, students were then told to observe the positions of others in the room. Each person had begun in the same spot; but now, some students had a considerable head-start.

Obviously, we did not really race, and no, nobody received the $100, but the message of the activity was clear: each student wants to succeed, but a variety of uncontrollable factors put some students ahead of others.

How does this relate to promoting sportsmanship in high school competition?

In conversation after the activity, we discussed how we view each school by a general stereotype based on several factors, including the school’s or surrounding area’s reputation.

Some schools in the O-K Black conference are not in thriving communities, and the populations of these communities tend to be underserved and less privileged. The factors that make a person more privileged than others are uncontrollable; but recognizing others’ privilege, or lack of, and accepting each person regardless of where he or she has started in life are crucial in destroying the stereotypes and unjustified behavior that adulterate the healthy competition of high school sports.

This eye-opening experience inspired me to spread the valuable message of this activity in order to break down the barriers of privilege within high school sports and to actively promote good sportsmanship practices within their school’s athletics.

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