University of Scranton continues National Sportsmanship Day celebrations

Mar 1, 2010

     In celebration of the 20th annual National Sportsmanship Day, The University of Scranton will host class of 1993 alumnus Matt Davidson, Ph.D., an expert on character education, executive director of the Institute for Excellence and Ethics, and former Royals lacrosse player, during a PIAA-sponsored workshop Wednesday, March 10, in the McIlhenny Ballroom of the DeNaples Center on campus.

     The workshop, entitled “Maximizing the Power of Character, Developing Character FOR and FROM Sport,” is open to all coaches and athletic directors in school districts in PIAA District 2 and is held in conjunction with the University’s Bochicchio Sport Character Initiative. Steve Vacendak, a Scranton Prep alumnus who played in two NCAA Final Four tournaments with Duke University, will present the workshop’s keynote address. The program is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

     Dr. Davidson will also host a lecture and roundtable discussion on character and sport March 10 from noon to 2 p.m. in the McIlhenny Ballroom of the DeNaples Center. The lecture is open to the public and free of charge.

     The character development workshop is one of several events The University of Scranton is hosting to embrace sportsmanship and sports education this year. 

     On January 30, the University held a “Sportsmanship Day at the Long Center” event, offering fans free admission to a Royals’ basketball game, as well as a short program on the importance of sportsmanship. 

     The University’s sportsmanship initiative continues on March 26 as members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, comprised of Scranton student-athletes, travel to Francis Willard Elementary School to discuss teamwork and character.

     While all athletes and fans are familiar with the definition of good sportsmanship, Dr. Davidson explains his workshop delves deeper, tackling the question of why sportsmanship is vital to athletics.

     “There are obvious things people know about sportsmanship: shake hands after the game, don’t scream at refs, don’t fight, don’t go into the stands with fans. These things are all clear. They are almost cliché now,” Dr. Davidson said. “What we try to focus on are the deeper issues like, ‘What is the moral character needed to be a good teammate or performer?’ What it comes down to is integrity and honesty.”

     “We’re not just talking about being good sports, we are talking about how to coach on a whole new level,” added Jack O’Malley, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology and chair of the steering committee of Bochicchio Sport Character Initiative. 

     Dr. Davidson, who lectured at the University’s National Sportsmanship Day celebrations last year, said his teachings have evolved, much like sports and the competitive nature around athletics continues to change.

     “The intensity of sports today is unsurpassed, and it gets more intense every year,” he explained. 

     Dr. Davidson’s forward-thinking approach concentrates on how coaches and leaders shape their cultures, and, in turn, shape the character of their athletes. Secondly, the workshop will address the importance of goal setting in terms of character, reaching goals off the field to assist performances on the field.

     “We need to continue to focus on positive and proactive ways to develop character and culture, and National Sportsmanship Day should be a positive remainder of why we play sports,” Dr. Davidson said.

     Dr. Davidson has dedicated more than 15 years to character education research, program development and dissemination. Prior to joining the Institute for Excellence & Ethics, he was the Research Director at the Center for the 4th & 5th Rs at the State University of New York College at Cortland. He has been on staff at the Family Life Development Center at Cornell University and the Values Program at LeMoyne College, and the Mendelson Center for Sport, Character, and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, where he was also an Adjunct Professor of Education.

     Sponsored by the Institute for International Sport, National Sportsmanship Day — scheduled nationally for March 2 — is the largest sportsmanship initiative in the world. An estimated 14,000 universities and schools throughout the United States and abroad will participate in this year’s events.

     The Bochicchio Sport Character Initiative’s programs honor the memory of the late Joe Bochicchio, a University of Scranton coach who has inspired much of the Jesuit university’s work to promote sportsmanship.

     For additional information about The University of Scranton’s National Sportsmanship Day celebrations, contact Dr. O’Malley at (570) 941-4269, or District 2 coaches and athletic directors interested in attending the “Maximizing the Power of Character, Developing Character FOR and FROM Sport” workshop must register with Frank Majikes, chairman of the PIAA, at 822-4131 or fax 823-4304.

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