At the end of each school year, the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association names the recipients of Champions in Sportsmanship which are awarded to schools that have completed an extensive application process judged by the DIAA Sportsmanship Committee.
For the 11th time, Sussex Tech High School was named a Champion in Sportsmanship. This year twenty-one other schools throughout the state qualified.
The annual statewide competition pits schools against ten standards set by the DIAA, not against one another. Member schools must submit a portfolio at the end of the school year, proving they’ve met the standards set by the DIAA, which means the entire school and its student body must be involved for a school to successfully complete the program.
“I think winning the award for the 11th time just speaks to the overall culture at our school,” Sussex Tech athletic director Nick Pegelow said. “The administration does a great job of creating a positive climate in our school and that filters down through our athletic programs.”
While every school approaches the growth of sportsmanship in their own way, at Sussex Tech the goal is to build character in all students.
“In our athletic programs specifically, we really try to teach character development,” said Pegelow. “We believe ultimately, character is what determines success. Character drives the process and the process drives the results.”
Sportsmanship is an important part of high school athletics for obvious reasons, but Pegelow believes they’re doing good work at Sussex Tech spreading good morals and values in a world seemingly going in the opposite direction.
“Unfortunately, I think the idea of sportsmanship and positivity is a little lost in our society - we live in a me-first world that a lot of times focuses on results, especially in the athletic realm,” Pegelow said.
“So, the idea of sportsmanship and character development is sometimes counter cultural. A lot of times, people lose sight of the fact that outcomes and results are beyond our control. What we can control is our character, our sportsmanship and being the best person we can be on a daily basis. In the long run, developing those positive characteristics leads to success.”
The DIAA Champions in Sportsmanship program was founded 21 years ago. More than 20 schools have won the award multiple times, including Sussex Tech.
“I think DIAA developing the award and this program has helped bring a focus back to the mission of DIAA - education through athletics,” Pegelow said. “I think as administrators and coaches, we have to continue to always do more to promote positive leadership, character development and sportsmanship.”
In the end, Sussex Tech’s goals go beyond the athletic fields as they try to prepare their students for the real world outside their doors.
“Being an athlete is not a career, the statistics show that only two percent of high school athletes will receive some type of athletic scholarship,” said Pegelow. “The percentage that go on to play professionally is obviously much less. So, at the high school level and even collegiately, we have to continue to develop the character traits it takes to be successful in all facets of life outside of sports.”
Sussex Central also champions
Sussex Central was also named a Champion in Sportsmanship, winning the award for the fourth time.
Three schools, Brandywine, Middletown and Mt. Pleasant won the award for the first time.
There are 18 other schools that have now been named a Champion in Sportsmanship multiple times, including Caravel Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, Concord, Conrad School of Science, Glasgow, Lake Forest, McKean, St. Mark’s, Sanford, Tatnall, Tower Hill, William Penn, Woodbridge and Woodbridge Middle School.