Sportsmanship can lead to big bucks: Let's make Wolf Swartz scholarship decisions hard

An official is shown here in action during a York-Adams girls' basketball game. The local basketball officials will determine the winners of the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Sportsmanship Awards. Last season, $110,000 in scholarships were awarded to area seniors.

As a rule, it’s Santa who knows who’s naughty and nice.

On local basketball floors, however, it’s the members of the York Chapter of PIAA Officials who do the judging. They watch the game-in, game-out behavior of boys’ and girls’ high school teams, their coaches and their fans. Then they make their list and check it twice.

At the end of the season, they vote for the boys’ and girls’ programs that best display the fundamentals of good sportsmanship.

They’re the teams that, from junior high through varsity, play hard and clean, that respect the game, the officials and their opponents. Win or lose, their players walk off the floor with their heads held high, knowing they played the game the right way. They are coached by women and men who model good behavior, and they are supported by crowds who realize these are teenagers playing a game they love.

The schools that best exemplify the tenets of sportsmanship, as determined by the officials’ vote, are awarded Gretchen Wolf Swartz Sportsmanship Awards. The senior members of the winning teams are eligible to apply for academic scholarships in a number and amount determined by members of the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Fund Board of Directors.

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Lots of scholarship money at stake: The first scholarships were awarded in 2001, when Susquehannock High School’s Audrey Bare and South Western High School’s Andrew Kern each received a $1,000 scholarship.

The rewards for good sportsmanship have grown considerably. This past spring, Hanover High School’s Tianna Grey and Abigail Duvall shared $110,000 in scholarships with Red Lion High School’s Amando “AJ” Virata Jr., Mitch Burchett and Davante’ Dennis. All told, the committee has awarded more than $750,000 in scholarships.

Remembering an official: The awards are presented in memory of Gretchen Wolf Swartz, who was a York County basketball official from 1981 to 1995. Following her untimely death from leukemia in 1997, her fellow York County officials created the memorial team awards and scholarship fund to promote and honor the sportsmanship she displayed throughout her playing and officiating careers.

The awards recognize honesty, integrity, cooperation, respect, courage, teamwork and discipline. While sportsmanship most often applies to athletic events, the board sees its impact as being much wider: The ability to get along with others is one of the greatest learned skills. “Good sports” stand out in any arena and enrich the lives of others wherever they may be.

Encourage sportsmanship: Although Santa’s work is drawing to a close, it’s only just begun for York area basketball officials. The 2020-21 high school season started Dec. 10. Their naughty-nice list is only beginning to take shape.

Do us a favor. Make their vote really hard. Encourage the athletes you know to display the highest levels of sportsmanship. Encourage the coaches and administrators you know to preach and model sportsmanship. And encourage fans you know to, in the words of the old song, “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”

Doing so could help bring a significant scholarship to one of your favorite athletes.

Reach Allan Pettit at or @ydsports. Pettit is a member of the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Fund Board of Directors. Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.