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STARS in 'Bama

By By Matthew Nascone
The 2008-09 school year in Alabama will be a great one. I say this because that is when the STAR Sportsmanship Initiative will take effect.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association central board of control approved the landmark initiative March 12 at their annual March meeting and it should start having an effect immediately.
This plan says that all students in grades seven through 12 must complete an online interactive program and meet other requirements before being allowed to compete in any sports.
The program will teach the students how to be better sports when they lose and in general. With sportsmanship leaving athletics at an alarming rate, it is great to see the governing body on Alabama high school athletics take a stand.
No matter how this goes over, it will be a success in my book and the student athletes will be better people after going through the training.
It is also encouraging to see that the initiative was passed with a unanimous vote, meaning no one on the board saw anything bad about the program.
But how could you see anything bad with a program that will teach athletes how to be better sports?
You can't and that is why it is so great.
The program was developed by www.learningthroughsports.com and its director Brian Shulman. I can't wait to see what Shulman's program can bring to the athletic programs in the state of Alabama.
It is always good to see something good coming from high school athletics. A lot of times you see the parents who are too hard on their kids or the coaches that come down hard on an undeserving player, but the most prevalent problem I have seen is the athlete that does not know how to handle all the obstacles dealt with on and off the field.
This program should help all the athletes who want to play high school athletics learn how to cope with loss in a way that does not barge into the other player's on the other team or on the same team.
Many times the problems do not lie on the outside, but within the same team. A player does not know how to handle another player making a mistake and the problem escalates from the team doing badly on the field to doing badly in the dugout.
Being a good sport on the field includes congratulating the other team when the game is done. Yeah, you might hurt like nothing else, but you still have to acknowledge the accomplishments of the other team.
This is probably the hardest thing for any athlete to do because you have to admit failure to do that. And this is why sports can be a great way to teach children about life. You are not going to win at everything, like you are not going to always succeed in life, but the person who can admit they were defeated, or wrong, is going to be better off in the long run.
I just hope the STAR Sportsmanship Initiative works to better all the athletes involved with and looking to be involved with Alabama high school athletics.
Matthew Nascone is the sports editor of the Atmore Advance. He can be reached at 368-2123 or online at sports@atmoreadvance.com.