When a Community takes Responsibility

I had the honor of offering the prayer at the NWI Sportsmanship Dinner last night.  Over 800 people, including High School Basketball Teams from 30 schools in the region gather for the banquet every year. The background is inspiring.

Almost 60 years ago, a fight broke out in the stands at a sectional basketball game at the Hammond Civic Center.  It didn’t involve coaches or players, but it was unacceptable to some business leaders in the region.

And they decided to take responsibility. They put together a banquet for coaches and players from 12 teams in the region the next year right before Sectionals started.  They funded it and hosted it with this as their stated concept: “get the players together to break bread before they faced each other on the hard court in hopes of instilling a sense of sportsmanship and fair play during the competition.”

It’s grown exponentially since then and is the longest running banquet of its kind that anyone is aware of. I’m a huge fan of what happened last night on a lot of levels.

1.  People saw a problem and they didn’t wait for someone else to fix it. No complaining about where society is going or telling school leaders to make more rules.  They were (and are) positive and pro-active in their approach.

2.  A community came together to solve a community problem. Some problems can’t get solved by an individual or by writing a check.  Social dilemmas are best addressed by a community of people.

3.  Older men are making real investments in younger men. Values get taught.  More importantly, they get caught by the selfless investment of one generation wanting the next to succeed.

4.  They go the extra mile. Beyond the banquet, now the leaders give out generous scholarships.  They reward players who represent what is right about High School Athletics.  And, they attend all of the sectionals in person, awarding scholarships based on how teams and fans display sportsmanship during the sectional.

5.  They do it all with excellence. If you are a Chicago/Indiana sports fan, take a look at a few of their speakers over the years:  Lee Corso, Al McGuire, Gene Keady, Norm Van Lier, Leslie Frazier, Mike Tomczak, Bob Love, Joe Tiller, Homer Drew, Matt Painter, Dan Plesac, Pat Fitzgerald. There is a total commitment to making this event a place young people want to be.

And, personally, it was inspiring to see so many Suncrest faces and names…leaders living out their faith and doing good.  Mark Hines is on the committee and I ran into plenty of business guys supporting the event or coaches and administrators from our school systems.  I’m confident God’s “Well done, good and faithful servant.” affirmation comes as quickly for investments like this as it does with serving in church-based ministries.

The Picture above is from the Times story on the last night’s dinner. It is a nice profile of a player who has grown in sportsmanship. Click here if you are interested.

~ by Greg Lee on February 22, 2011.

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