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In May of 2018, the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Fund Board of Directors will award close to $100,000 in scholarships.

In the blink of an eye, you can help someone lose their share.

How?

By yelling at a PIAA basketball official. By taunting an opponent’s player. Or by being a coach and losing your cool.

If you can find no other reason to rein in your worst instincts, then imagine explaining to a handful of seniors why you cost them a chance at significant scholarship money.

Kids already have enough bad role models.

During the 2017 World Series, a Major League Baseball player made a racist gesture while yelling a demeaning term for Asians. In early November, the soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner taunted his opponent by grabbing his crotch and shouting obscenities. And a few weeks ago, the Seattle Seahawks’ visit to Jacksonville ended on an ugly note with fans throwing debris on players and one Seahawk briefly attempting to climb into the stands.

Yet despite the boorish behavior of high-profile adults and parents, many of us hold our kids — our young, impressionable teens — to a higher standard. We teach the tenets of sportsmanship, then demand that our children try to embrace them.

That can be hard when you’ve not yet matured emotionally and you desperately want to win. It can be harder still when family and friends are in the stands, watching your every move. And it can be nearly impossible when parents and professional idols keep lowering the bar.

What to do? What to do?

Encouraging sportsmanship: The Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Fund encourages sportsmanship by offering enormous rewards for good behavior. This past May,  York-Adams Interscholastic Athletic Association (YAIAA) student-athletes from Biglerville (girls) and New Oxford (boys) high schools shared more than $100,000 in scholarships through the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Sportsmanship Awards.

Over the course of the 2016-17 season, their programs did the most outstanding job of honoring the game and respecting the tenets of sportsmanship, as determined by a vote of the York Chapter of PIAA Basketball Officials.

The award memorializes Gretchen Wolf Swartz, a York County basketball official from 1981 to 1995. Following her untimely death from leukemia in 1997, her fellow officials created a scholarship fund to promote and honor the sportsmanship she so effectively displayed.

 Here’s how it works: From the first games of the season, those basketball officials are evaluating York-Adams programs on the quality of their sportsmanship. They’re not only watching the players — both boys and girls –— they’re also watching coaches and scorekeepers, cheerleaders and fans from junior high through varsity.

At the conclusion of the regular season, those officials vote to recognize a boys’ and girls’ program after observing a full slate of games. Each winning school receives a traveling trophy in recognition of its accomplishment.

Then in May, the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Foundation Board of Directors recognizes the top seniors from each winning program. After an application and interview process, some of the applying seniors receive scholarships, with awards of $20,000, $15,000, $10,000, $5,000 and $1,000 potentially going to students from each program.

That amount of money can be life-changing. Which means your hot-tempered response to a questionable call can be life-changing, as well.

Think about that the next time you walk into your favorite team’s gymnasium.

— Steve Merrick, CPA, is chairman of the board of the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Fund.

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