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The best trophy of all

EDITORIAL

Among all the awards, championships and honors won by sports teams from Suffolk public high schools this year, one stands above the rest.

Lakeland High School was one of 39 schools across the state to have been awarded the 2015-2016 Claudia Dodson Virginia High School League Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award. The announcement came this week, and Gregory Rountree, activities director at Lakeland hit just the right note when he learned of the school’s honor: “It’s a great feeling, I’ve got chills through my body. Sportsmanship means a whole lot to us.”

Sportsmanship means a whole lot, indeed.

The selection process for the award involves two different types of evaluations. First, the school must answer a 50-question form about conduct. Second, two schools that are in the same conference must fill out peer evaluations of the applicant school’s ethics and sportsmanship. Finally, VHSL Assistant Director Tom Dolan evaluates the school.

A school can have no more than one ejection during the school year to be considered for selection. After being disqualified from the selection process the past two years by that rule, administrators at Lakeland set out this year to make sure participants in various competitive events had a firm grasp on the importance of sportsmanship.

Students each wrote one-page reports about sportsmanship, which they brought home for their parents to see. By making every student think of the importance of sportsmanship, it helped breed a culture of ethical athletes, Rountree said.

Whether their teams won a single championship or, for that matter, a single game, the Cavaliers coaches helped ensure their players knew how to win and lose with grace. That lesson is far more important than any trophy the teams might have brought back to their schools.

Congratulations to Lakeland’s fine sportsmen.