Earlier this month the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association announced the 2017-2018 Dale Farmer State Champions in Sportsmanship.

Each year, the DIAA offers and annual statewide competition in sportsmanship. Schools in the state are graded on ten different standards, including the school’s commitment to community and education.

The award is named in honor of Dale Farmer, the first executive director of the Delaware Secondary Schools Athletic Association. Mr. Farmer was also honored with the DIAA Lifetime Achievement Award back in 2016.

Overall, 17 schools were named State Champions in Sportsmanship for the 2017-2018 school year. In total, 34 schools throughout the state have received the award at least once in the 22 year history of the award.

“These schools truly embrace the philosophy of education-based athletics and demonstrate exemplary sportsmanship by their behavior and actions,” said DIAA Sportsmanship Committee Chair Heath Chasanov in a DIAA press release. “We commend the Sportsmanship Committee of these schools that are constantly promoting the value of sportsmanship and supporting the mission of DIAA.”

Middletown High School was among the 17 schools to earn the award, winning it for the second time.

Other schools receiving the award were, Brandywine High School, Caravel Academy, Caesar Rodney High School, Charter School of Wilmington, Concord High School, Conrad School of Science, Lake Forest High School, McKean High School, Mt. Pleasant High School, Newark Charter, Sanford School, Sussex Tech High School, Tatnall School, William Penn High School, Woodbridge High School and Springer Middle School.

Schools are judged on much more than handshakes after each game.

The process lasts the entire year and each school must provide a detailed report at the end of the school year which is then reviewed by the DIAA.

Each school must provide a written board of education policy on sportsmanship, have a committee which plans and coordinates a sportsmanship program, hold annual evaluations of coaches, create a campaign which promotes sportsmanship as well as creating procedures to investigate and resolve complaints dealing with sportsmanship.

Many from Middletown High shared their thoughts on the honor and what makes achieving it possible.

“The leadership that Colleen Kelley exhibits in the role as athletic director and athletic trainer is phenomenal,” said Brian Derrickson, soccer coach at Middletown. “The ability she has to oversee and offer suggestions for improvement go a long way to the receiving of this award. The hours of keeping logs and documenting what goes on in a sportsmanship capacity are monumental.”

While the DIAA Champions in Sportsmanship was created to help build those qualities in athletics throughout the state, at Middletown it’s expected.

“We expect all swimmers to remain in the water to shake hands with other swimmers,” said Middletown swim coach Sandra Prather. “You will also see both teams cheering for each other regularly. We instill this expectations in our swimmers from the start.”

Throughout the athletic programs at Middletown, each has taken the role of showing sportsmanship seriously, at every level.

“Tennis players officiate their own games, which requires good sportsmanship,” said Middletown tennis coach Steven Tolliver. “As a coach, I try to set an example of how important sportsmanship is to overall student-athlete growth. It’s easy to be a good sport when you’re winning. The true test of character is in how you handle yourself when you lose. Middletown’s administration is very supportive in this endeavor.”

Some at Middletown have been instrumental in not only spreading this message around the campus, but throughout the sport they’re involved in.

“This year through the regular season, we accumulated at most, one caution for unsportsmanlike behavior, which is pretty amazing for high school competitive players,” Derrickson said. “On the boys side, after the 2016 season, we were coming off a season which saw us accumulate 2 cards in 2015 - I was tasked with creating an improvement plan which consists of both players and parents completing sportsmanship courses online from NFHS and NSCAA. As a result, we were given a commendation as we reduced our card total to 12 in a very competitive schedule.”

“All in all, it’s about leadership and at Middletown High School I believe starting with the AD and the right mindset from coaches, we have made great strides in sportsmanship.”