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Civility symposium panel provides insightful discussion

I must applaud the Howard County Library System for its "Civility" theme and, in particular, last Thursday's symposium titled "The Ball's in Your Court: Can Civility and Sports Coexist?"

It seemed to be an appropriate subject coming on the heels of the recent incident in Pennsylvania where a coach and several of his players allegedly duct taped an autistic boy to a goal post. They then left him screaming there for roughly 15 minutes before an off-duty police officer heard him and cut him loose.

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How about some civility in coaching?

The Miller Library produced a strong panel for the symposium headed by none other than former Baltimore Colts lineman Joe Ehrmann, whose words always, and I mean always, resonate long after his appearances.

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The rest of the panel was equally strong with sports psychology expert Amanda Visek of George Washington University, Mt. Hebron's Athletics and Activities Manager Jeannie Prevosto, and the very capable and articulate Howard High School senior Winston DeLattiboudere III. I actually thought Winston was going to get a standing ovation after presenting his personal experiences as an athlete.

The moderator, Korva Coleman, was a writer and producer at NPR. She engaged each panel member effectively throughout the discussion.

Jeannie and Winston presented on-the-ground experiences, dealing with coaches and parents. Both made some excellent points on how to deal particularly with those coaches and parents who do not agree with the calls or play on the field, or are a disruptive force.

The research that Dr. Visek has uncovered was very interesting, as she referred to something called the "Fun Factor" that is used to determine whether kids are having fun playing sports. Her study shows that winning is overrated.

Instead, the Fun Factors include things like good sportsmanship and positive coaching. She also discussed why kids quit playing sports, with the main reason being that the sport is no longer fun.

Coach Ehrmann was riveting, particularly when he talked about two types of coaching — the transactional one and the transformational one. The former uses young people for his or her own benefit. The transformational coach understands the needs of the players and provides much needed mentoring. As Joe said, "When I was coaching, one of my main functions was to help boys become men. Sports is a tool to build better citizens."

It was a strong performance by all panelists.

The only potential problem I saw is that the panel appeared to be preaching to the choir. The people who are bad coaches, the parents who do not support their kids, or the fans who are disrespectful to players and officials are often not the ones who attend these type of presentations. Typically, they do not look at themselves as the problem.

I just hope the message reaches the people who need it most.

Anyone who was unable to attend can view the symposium online at youtube.com/howardcountylibrary.

Think Pink

It's October and that means it's Cancer Awareness Month.

Isabel Paci of River Hill High School is challenging friends at other schools to take up the challenge of raising funds for the Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Resource Center at volleyball games. Isabel specifically challenged a few individuals — Centennial's Meghan Kelley, Glenelg's Rachael Girard, Hammond's Lauryn Terry, Mt. Hebron's Reeana Richardson, Marriotts Ridge's Grace McCoy and Reservoir's Barbara Kelley — to join in.

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Isabel's sister Gabriella, who graduated from River Hill, started something called Hawks for Hope while she was on the team. River Hill coach Lynn Paynter liked the idea so much that she allowed the team to raise donations again this year. The Hawks for Hope game was played on Oct. 7 against Mt. Hebron.

Many other teams throughout the county in a variety of sports have also participated in similar Think Pink efforts. It's great to see young athletes doing their part for a worthy cause.

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