There were extra lessons going on Tuesday at LeRoy High School. They centered around respect and sportsmanship.
The hope here is that a message can be sent to teen-age students everywhere about what is appropriate and what goes over the line when trying to generate enthusiasm for an upcoming game.
Seniors at LeRoy clearly stepped over any boundaries of good taste with a sign that was placed on the side of the high school building Monday, the start of homecoming week.
The top of the banner read:
“Q. Want to hear a good joke?!?”
Beneath it were the words:
“A. Blue Ridge Football”
Blue Ridge is the Panthers’ opponent this Friday. The neighboring districts are separated by 9.4 miles from high school to high school. Blue Ridge is also the school that snapped a 31-game losing streak four days ago.
At a time when the Blue Ridge players should be commended for continuing to put forth the effort required to have success on the field, they were reminded of the frustrating lack of success in the recent past and made fun of in a very public display.
Following complaints from Blue Ridge parents — many of whom saw the banner when they arrived in LeRoy Monday evening for a volleyball match between the schools — the banner was removed Tuesday morning.
LeRoy principal Steve Reschke fielded a call from the IHSA on Tuesday and spent a part of his work day discussing the issue with other callers.
“There was quite a bit of feedback,” he said.
In one email, he issued this statement: “I apologize on behalf of all citizens of LeRoy to all citizens of Farmer City, and especially to all students/teachers/administration of Blue Ridge High School.”
He also said there will be repercussions for those involved, but added, “I’m not at liberty to talk about them.”
The students at LeRoy were participating in a tradition which has occurred for years at the school.
“All of our classes create a banner that is put up on the side of the building the Monday of homecoming,” Reschke said.
This year, one class did not participate, another class had its banner torn by the wind as they attempted to put it in place and, now, the senior banner is gone. That leaves one banner remaining.
It is unclear whether any adults were supervising or otherwise involved in helping the senior students get their banner on the side of the school. When asked, Reschke said, “Ultimately it is my responsibility because it is on the outside of my building.”
Though there is no way to justify the banner, if it serves to illustrate graphically what should not be tolerated, some small piece of good can be drawn from the action.
While it is true that for every team which wins a game, there are an equal amount of teams which lose, there is much, much more that can be learned through athletics than what is revealed on the scoreboard. In my way of thinking, individuals who stick with an activity through enormous challenges and individuals who diligently strive to improve themselves and their teams are the true winners.