At Inter-Lakes, sportsmanship culture is cultivated year-round

MEREDITH — Inter-Lakes High School has won the NHIAA's Sportsmanship Award for Division III twice in the past three years. Athletic Director Jeff Cloos, who came to Inter-Lakes four years ago, said that maintaining a high standard of sportsmanship takes more than a policy written in a handbook or a slogan painted on a wall. It requires that all parties involved believe in good sportsmanship as a philosophy.
"It is a culture," he said. It was a culture he found in place when he was hired by the district, and it's one he has taken deliberate steps to encourage. The athletes buy into it, he said, as do the coaches, fans and parents. "And they hold each other accountable. We have high expectations of how we hold ourselves as far as athletes and as a community."
The work begins as early as pre-season meetings, where videos of good sportsmanship are watched and discussed. During the seasons, fans who exhibit excellent behavior are rewarded with Inter-Lakes T-shirts. Athletes are awarded for their conduct in the after season awards banquets.
There's another side to the coin, too. When fans, whether they're students or parents, exhibit what the school considers inappropriate behavior, Cloos said the issue is dealt with immediately, either by him or another administrator. A quick discussion is often all that is required, though repeated offenders will be asked to leave the event. "We want our schools, our community to be well-represented," he said.
"If someone crosses the line of poor sportsmanship, we deal with it quickly. We certainly have our share of issues, all schools do. We're not perfect."
What behavior should and shouldn't be allowed? Cloos said the NHIAA gives each school a certain amount of latitude to develop their own standards. For example, at Inter-Lakes, fans aren't allowed to make distracting noises, such as stomping their feet in the bleachers, when a basketball player is attempting a free throw. However, at other schools, it's allowed. He encourages his athletes to adapt to and respect the rules of the schools they visit, even if the behavior wouldn't be permissible at Inter-Lakes. "That's part of sports and traveling to other schools."
Some of his players, he noted, actually prefer the raucous atmospheres. To some, silence is more distracting than any crowd. "There's a balance that can be found."
For Cloos, sportsmanship is one of the benefits students gain from participating in athletics. He said, it teaches the athletes to have respect for themselves, for their teammates, coaches, opponents and referees. "In sports, as in life, the athletes understand that winning isn't everything."

Fouls called on local fans

LACONIA — In recent days, fans who have shown up to support their local teams in the highly competitive NHIAA Division III Girls Basketball Tournament have been criticized for what some consider poor sportsmanship.

Susan Colby of Bristol, in particular, has been publicly critical of the behavior of Laconia fans, students and adults, at last Saturday night's quarter-final-round game between host Newfound and the Sachems.

"Oh my gosh," said Colby when reached on Thursday.

She said she was very glad to see that Laconia brought over 50 students to the game and the entire contingent of Sachem fans amounted to about a quarter of the total crowd. She said that at the encouragement of one the Laconia adults present, a group moved to seats behind the Newfound cheerleaders.

"On the first foul (shot by Newfound) they started stomping their feet, and I said to them that we don't do that here," she said. "They looked at me smugly."

Colby said that toward the end of the game, Newfound fans also started stomping their feet on the bleachers during Laconia's free throw attempts and she was equally disappointed in them.

She said the thing that upset her the most was the taunting when Laconia fans yelled "air ball" and "you can't do that" during free throw shots. At the end of the game, she said Laconia fans were yelling "loser" "loser".

Colby said one of her friends called Laconia school Superintendent Terri Forsten on Monday but she doesn't know if there was any conversation between the two.

Colby added that all of the athletes and their coaches on both sides were perfectly well behaved.

A Laconia High School student said Friday that he was also at the game. He said most of the crowd's behavior was "like you would see at any other game that you watch on television."

He said that toward the end of the game the people he was with started chanting "winning team" and "losing team", however Laconia Athletic Director Craig Kozens told them to stop.

"Some of the stuff we did was kind of rude," he said.

The student said there was also an altercation in the bleachers between one Newfound student and the mother of one of the Laconia players.

He said it started out as yelling but then the male Newfound student started to move toward the woman, "like he was going to get in her face" and his friend hauled him back and took him outside.

But according to photographer Alan MacRae, the Laconia crowd got a small taste of its own medicine on Tuesday, when their team played Gilford in a semi-final-round game in Manchester.

MacRae, assigned to cover the game by The Daily Sun, has been photographing high school, college and professional sports for just about his entire adult live. He is a retired police officer.

He said he was "appalled" by the behavior of Gilford's fans when they held up newspapers in front of their faces when the starting five players for Laconia were introduced before the game.

MacRae said there was no foot pounding on either side and, other than the newspapers, both sets of fans seemed well behaved. Both sides were loud, boisterous and supportive of their team and he said it was a close and very well-played game.

"Gilford has a formidable sports program," MacRae said, suggesting the fans, many of them adults, should mimic the good behavior of the athletes and coaches.

MacRae's larger concern is that student athletes are not all alike. "What if you're (taunting) got some kid who's "coded" meaning he or she has an individual education plan, or one who is shy or has ADD?"

"What if this kid was distraught?" he asked. "The average person can brush (taunting) off but some kids are more sensitive."

WEMJ radio sportscaster Keith Murray sees it a little differently than MacRae and Colby.

Murray has called games this year involving Gilford, Winnisquam Regional, Belmont, Inter-Lakes and Laconia teams.

He said someone also told him there was some "questionable behavior" at some of the games including foot stomping during foul shots. Murray said he "didn't think it was out of bounds."

He said most gymnasiums don't have seating behind the baskets and he said Laconia's fans at Newfound were "loud and energetic but not out of order."

Murray said he didn't hear any personal or verbal attacks on the players.

Nevertheless, Murray encourages civility and respect.

Murray also recalled fondly the games in the 1980s and early 1990s between Gilford and Laconia when they shared a superintendent.

"Now that was an intense rivalry," he said, noting both teams were very loud, very supportive but not generally out of order.

Gilford Superintendent Kent Hemingway said he was sorry to hear there were bad reports about the behavior of some of his team's fans in Manchester. He said he had staff and administrators at the game has heard "absolutely nothing".

He said Gilford, which won a NHIAA sportsmanship award in 2012-2013, has taken the rules of NHIAA very seriously.

Those rules dictate that all members are to act with a spirit of good sportsmanship and each school should have a set of procedures and policies to follow. The NHIAA rules say the principal of the school as building leader has this responsibility.

Efforts to contact Laconia High School Principal Jim McCollum this week were unsuccessful however, School Board Chair Joe Cormier said if the allegations about Laconia fans are true, he is very disappointed.

"We really don't tolerate this behavior and I am saddened to learn this," he said.

Superintendent Forsten said she was unable to be at either the game at Newfound or the semi-final game in Manchester, but said her administration is committed to promoting good sportsmanship with all of their teams.

"We've dedicated ourselves to good sportsmanship and we've seen that," she said.

"Our youth represent our community and we see good behavior most of the time." she said. Forsten said that instilling good behavior on the part of the students fans is generally very easy, however sometime adults will behave badly, somewhat tying the hands of the administrators.

Shaker voters put off vote on taking wrecking ball to Gale School for a year

BELMONT — A warrant article to raise and appropriate $65,000 to raze the historic Gale School was tabled by most of the nearly 240 residents of Belmont and Canterbury attending the annual meeting of the Shaker Regional School District last night at the High School gym.

Former school board member Pret Tuthill of Belmont made the motion to postpone any such vote for a year and all but a few voters agreed with him via a voice vote. The move was apparently aimed at giving people who are determined to save the old, vacant building that sits on a knoll off the left shoulder of the Middle School from the wrecking ball.

The school board has repeatedly said it has no use for the structure but some Belmont residents believe it should be moved out in front of the school and renovated into an office for the superintendent and S.A.U. staff.

Earlier in the meeting a 191 to 41 majority of voters approved the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement between the school district and its union of teachers. A ballot vote was called for and that ritual took the better part of an hour to complete.

The three-year agreement will cost taxpayers an additional $250,404 in 2015, another $569,188 in 2016 and yet another $513,464 in 2017. Funds to pay for the current year will be taken from the school districts unassigned fund balance at the end of this school year.


MIA state representative says he'll attend his first convention meeting on Monday

LACONIA — First time New Hampshire house member Robert Fisher, who represents Laconia and Belmont from Belknap County District 9, says that he will make his first appearance at a Belknap County Convention meeting Monday night. The convention is in the midst of pouring over the 2015 Belknap County budget and must approve a bottom line number by the end of the month.

Convention membership consists of the 18 state representatives elected from Belknap County. Collectively they are also referred to as the delegation.
Fisher, the manager of Same Day Computer on Union Avenue, says that a busy work schedule has prevented him from being able to take part in a single convention meeting since he took office.
He also owns a Same Day Computer business in Portsmouth and says that the loss of a key employee there has increased his workload.
''I'm working training a new employee and it's been really hectic,'' says Fisher, who defeated incumbent Democrat Beth Arsenault running as a Republican last fall after having been unsuccessful in his bid for a house seat in Laconia in 2012, when he ran as a Democrat.
He said that he thinks a brings an important perspective to the legislature as a young person who runs his own business.
''Most legislators are retired people who don't have current experience in the economy. I know what it's like to be running a business and paying rent and know that it's actually quite difficult. I'm not disconnected from the actual economy.'' says Fisher.

CAPTION For PIX Slugged Fisher.
Rep. Robert Fisher of Laconia says that he will be attending his first Belknap County convention meeting Monday night. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)