More than 40 Missouri high schools, ranging from Clinton and Excelsior Springs, to Truman and Fort Osage, sent 400 students, activities directors and coaches to the second annual Hy-Vee Western Missouri Sportsmanship Conference Wednesday morning at Eastside Baptist Church in Independence.
Sportsmanship is a hot topic in this age of social media, enlightenment and entitlement.
“This is the second year we have had this conference and the feedback we got last year was very useful,” Truman activities director and conference host Eric Holm said. “We’ve changed things up this year.
“Last year, (Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame pitcher and broadcaster) Jeff Montgomery was our keynote speaker, and he did a great job, but this year, we want to give our panelists and students more time to break off into groups and discus sportsmanship and ways they can help their schools make it a part of all school activities.”
Mike Moeller, one of the most respected and influential officials in the state – who works high school football and basketball games, along with Big 12 football games and two national championship contests – was eager to visit with those attending the conference.
“I’m 62, and it’s getting harder and harder to attract young people to officiating,” said Moeller, an Independence native and William Chrisman graduate. “Luckily, my crew and the officials I work with, have never been involved in a situation where we were fearful of fans, but a lot of crews have been in that situation and that is what people see time and time again on social media.
“I’m eager to talk to today about working high school and college games and how I personally deal with conflict resolution. The conference hasn’t even started and I’ve already had some great conversations with students and coaches.”
Fort Osage activities director Ryan Schartz brought 10 students to the conference, including cheerleader Allee Herrman and football player Richard Wiseman.
“These are two of our best students, kids who get it and know how to bring the messages they hear today back to our high school,” Schartz said.
“Sportsmanship is so important, and I’m talking about sportsmanship with our student section and our parents section,” Herrman said. “I think we can take a lot of positive things back to our school to discuss with everyone.”
Wiseman agreed, adding, “While Allee can talk about sportsmanship in cheering, I want to bring back sportsmanship ideas that will help me, my teammates and players from other teams.
“There is no room for trash talking and talking down to your opponents, and that is what I want to address and find out about today.”
Truman softball player Joni Oswald believes the conference is going to have an impact that will be felt years from now.
“I hope what we talk about today,” Oswald said, “will be used at our high school and have an impact on future classes and teams. I’m really excited to see what this conference is going to offer.”
Blue Springs High School activities director and football coach Kelly Donohoe brought 10 Wildcat student super fans who make an impact on Friday Night Under the Lights and at all Blue Springs sporting events.
“We have such passionate fans, and I wanted to bring the fans who are right there, in the front row of the student section cheering for our teams,” Donohoe said. “I think they can have a real impact on all the students who come to our sporting events.”