Sportsmanship in Schools

Governor Rick Perry is expected to sign a bill passed by the legislature which would call for random steroid testing in high school athletes. That would make Texas the first state to enact such a measure. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, steroid testing is just one aspect of an initiative to raise the ethical standard in high school sports.

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Testing for performance-enhancing drugs is just one element taken up by the University Interscholastic League. UIL officials are asking districts to teach their students about good sportsmanship. Brian Shulman is the founder of Learning Through Sports. He created an educational videogame that districts can make available to their students.

"Invariably these kids want to see the bad stuff and they also want to see the good stuff and so we built lessons that center around each one of those. So if somebody offers you some drugs, you know, those kids are going to say 'well I want to see what happens to him, I know it's wrong, but I want to see what happens.' Well we're able to really explain to them what will happen to you and they can see that. Then they come back and they get to make the right choice and they see the positive outcome and it's a chance for them to practice making the right decisions."

The game is interactive and puts players in real-life athletic situations. And it's not just for the kids. Shulman says parents are usually the worst when it comes to poor sportsmanship, and many coaches are using the videogames to teach the adults too.

"Eighty-something percent, I think it's 85-plus percent of kids stop playing sports by age 13 and the number one reason given is it's not fun. And when we started digging into this and saying why is it not fun, well it's not fun because my parents are always on me, they don't want to let me just have fun -- we've got to win, and the list goes on and on and it is ruining our kids' experiences."

More than 6,000 Texas kids have accessed the videogame as part of the UIL's pilot program. The pilot is funded by a $250,000 grant from the Texas Education Agency. The game targets three core areas: avoid steroids, stop bullying and develop good sportsmanship.

"The life lessons that can be learned in sports are unlike anything that can be taught in the classroom. They're so valuable and reach forever. Things that we learn as kids through sporting events stay with us forever: discipline, teamwork, respect for the individual, all the things that we want our kids to be like and emulate as they grow up."

The state of Alabama recently credited the a statewide sportsmanship initiative which used the STAR program with a 41 percent decrease in high school football game ejections in one year. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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