Many high school basketball players dream that their play on the court will someday help them earn a college scholarship.
For the past 14 years, however, there has been an another opportunity for every player throughout the York-Adams League to make that dream a reality, without worrying about points, rebounds and assists.
The Gretchen Wolf Swartz Sportsmanship Awards have been presented annually since 2001 to the two programs — one boys and one girls — that exemplify the very best sportsmanship throughout the season. It started back in 2001 with two $1,000 scholarships awarded to student athletes from the winning schools. The Susquehannock girls and South Western boys won the initial awards.
Big increase: Now, 14 years after those inaugural scholarships were awarded, the stakes have been raised — big time.
Starting with the 2015-2016 season, the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Board plans on increasing the amount of scholarships to an attention-grabbing $100,000. The awards will be presented to up to four senior members of the winning programs. That figure is more than three times greater than the $30,000 given out just last year to two students ($7,500 each) from both the York Tech boys' program and Biglerville girls' squad.
"We're hoping that all of the schools will pay attention to this," said Steve Merrick, the chairman of the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Fund. "And we're hoping that we can also get past the notion that this is some sort of 'losers' award, if you will. It's not a losers' award."
To accentuate that fact, just two years ago the Susquehannock girls' team and the Bermudian Springs boys' team won the awards. That year, the Warriors shared the Division II title with Dover, while the Eagles won the Division III title outright.
The board's ability to more than triple the number of dollars in total scholarships can be pinned to an increase in aid, according to Merrick.
"We've had some bequests from certain folks over the years (in wills)," he said. "(The funding) comes mostly from those bequests."
Hoping to attract lots of applicants: The plan is to award up to four seniors from each of the two winning programs scholarships ranging from $5,000 for fourth place up to $20,000 for the top candidate. If a program has less than four eligible seniors, or if less than four choose to apply, the board of directors will act accordingly.
Merrick, however, is hoping that those decisions won't come as a result of eligible athletes not applying.
"Not all seniors have applied for (the scholarship) over the years," he said. "I'm hoping that they all will now, with the size of this thing. It certainly seems like you should."
The four-step process is not overly complicated, Merrick said.
"It's not that hard of an application process," he said. "You have to fill out an application that isn't real lengthy. Then you have to get a couple of referrals and write up a short essay. Finally, you have to appear before the committee for the interview process and then we make the selections."
Merrick is hoping that the size of the awards will get all of the 23 programs throughout the York-Adams League to place a premium on sportsmanship.
Inspiration for awards: Sportsmanship was a quality that was near and dear to the heart of Gretchen Wolf Swartz, a York County basketball official from 1981 to 1995. After she died in 1997 from leukemia, her peers in the local officiating community created the team awards and scholarship fund in her memory.
"(Sportsmanship) was what Gretchen was all about," Merrick said. "And that's why the basketball officials created the award to honor her memory. Sportsmanship was something that she always stressed, so awarding scholarships based on that aspect was primary there."
The winning programs are selected by the York-area basketball officials after observing the season-long conduct of the players, fans, faculty, students, managers, coaches, superintendents, athletic directors and cheerleaders from junior high through varsity. The winning schools, who each receive a traveling trophy in recognition of their accomplishments, are the ones that best display the virtues of honesty, integrity, cooperation, courage, teamwork and discipline during the season.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.