Sportsmanship – We’re On It!

By Chris Long – GMS/GHS Principal

GMS and GHS activities are off and running.  Wrestling and girls’ and boys’ basketball have had multiple contests to this point.  They all have a slight hiatus as the holiday moratorium on practices runs Dec. 23-27 and all will resume with contests at different times over the break.  Good luck to all our coaches and athletes.

While we are on activities, it’s good to bring up a nationwide problem and something that is not immune to us here in South Dakota…..and Garretson.


Nationwide, including South Dakota, there is a shortage of sports officials.  This shortage is not unique to one particular area or sport, but rather a consistent and persistent issue that is challenging school and state activity associations.

It’s not an obvious problem for those that come to watch the contests, but behind the scenes there are many things that have changed to ensure contests continue as planned.  There have been schools that have been forced to change contest dates in order to find officials, officials have had to work in multiple locations on the same day and even the trend to schedule basketball doubleheaders has been partly due to the availability of officials.

The question that most probably have is “WHY?”.

We have an official shortage because of how officials are treated.  Not by coaches, not by players…but by the fans.

As a 20+ year official myself, I’ve seen it all.  I’ve seen officials come and go (I can count at least 25 that I know myself quit all or partly due to the negative experiences of fan abuse).  Recently I was able to participate in a podcast about officiating created by Sacred Hoops director, Alan Bertram, a long-time basketball coach in South Dakota.  One of his main reasons for the podcast was to shine a light on the issue of the shortage of officials and to hopefully enlighten others on some of the misconceptions associated with officiating.  The link for that podcast is below.

According to the most recent issue of “HST – High School Today” (November 2019) in an article written by Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff, and executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), schools all over the nation are being forced to address the issue of fan behavior towards officials, coaches, players and opponents.  Recent examples of poor fan behavior have led to groups of fans and even entire student sections being removed from high school contests.  A link to that entire article be found below.

As a district, we met with our entire 9-12 student body prior to our winter sports and talked about sportsmanship and expectations in regards to how we treat the officials and our opponents when attending activities.  Our students are aware that taunts, obscenities and other inappropriate behavior directed towards anyone will result in removal from the contest and possible consequences for future contests.

If you have attended Garretson home events in the past you have and will continue to notice expectations for our fans in the programs for our events.

It reads:

Sportsmanship- The Fan’s Role


The spectators at an athletic contest have an extremely important role in displaying good Sportsmanship.  As a group, your actions may have the biggest impact on how others see the reputation of your school and community. Please respect that a ticket is a privilege to observe the contest, not a license to verbally assault others or be generally obnoxious; Respect both players and fans of opposing teams, Know and understand the rules of the game, and Respect the decisions of an official and admire their willingness to publicly officiate student-athletes in the best interest of interscholastic sports.

We hope that all our fans, students and adults alike strive to exhibit respectful words and actions towards all the participants of our activities as detailed in the passage above.  It’s important to understand that our words and actions, especially as adults, are setting the example for our students and athletes – they are watching.

Prior to every contest our public address announcer reads the following statement:

“We are pleased to welcome you this evening to Garretson High School. This contest is being conducted under the guidance and regulation of the South Dakota High School Activities Association for the enjoyment and educational benefit of high school students. Good sportsmanship is essential for the success of these programs. Remember, you do not have to be an athlete to be a Good Sport!

We encourage you to cheer loud, support you team and be entertained by the abilities of our student athletes.  Realize that mistakes will be made by everyone…yes, even the officials.

Remember that even when they’re right, someone thinks they’re wrong.

Thanks for supporting the Blue Dragons.  Below are some additional resources in regards to sportsmanship and officiating.  The SDHSAA is always looking for officials, if you have an interest there is a link below for that as well.  There is also a great video below expressly for parents, called the “Parent’s Seat” from the NFHS.  Be sure to check that out!

One final reminder, you may have seen this in one of our area gyms….

Let the Coaches COACH.

Let the Players PLAY.

Let the Officials OFFICIATE.

Let the Fans be POSITIVE!

Happy Holidays and GO BLUE DRAGONS!


High School Today Article:

Memo to Parents:

The Parent Seat (Article):


The Parent Seat (Video):

Sacred Hoops Podcast:

How to become an official (SDHSAA):