Student-athletes learn to ‘respect the game’ at WPIAL Sportsmanship Summit

Wednesday, November 17, 2021 | 1:48 PM

More than 400 student-athletes from schools throughout Western Pennsylvania gathered Wednesday morning to discuss their roles in creating a stronger leadership environment through sportsmanship both on and off the field.

The 12th annual WPIAL Sportsmanship Summit at the Sen. John Heinz History Center in Downtown Pittsburgh gave students the opportunity to share experiences, learn about the history of strong sportsmanship through the region’s many game changers at the Sports Museum and discuss ways to keep leadership and sportsmanship at the forefront, not only in the WPIAL competition arena but through interactions in the classroom and in the community.

“Respect the Game” is a mission statement the WPIAL holds true every day of the year, WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman said.

She highlighted that mission through reading a letter from an athlete apologizing to the WPIAL for disrespectful actions in a recent game.

“That was very impactful,” Scheuneman said. “That student-athlete understood that what he did was wrong, and he learned that lesson. We want you to learn from him before you make a decision because there are ultimate consequences that unsportsmanlike conduct could result in.”

Scheuneman stressed the many good deeds student-athletes can put on display in their athletic endeavors.

Those include wishing classmates and opponents good luck after a hard-fought competition; thanking officials, coaches, athletic directors, bus drivers, parents and custodians for their work and support in making the athletic experience the best it can be; and posting congratulatory messages about their school and/or opponents.

Additional good deeds include leaving every facility in better shape than when they found it; treating others as they want to be treated; and simply helping a teammate, an opponent, an administrator and a friend.

Brett Keisel, a Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman from 2002-14 and a Super Bowl champion, offered words of encouragement to the student-athletes to “work for it,” through determination and effort for not only their athletic endeavors and dreams but their goals in academics and life.

“My dad grabbed me around the neck before I got on the plane to come to Pittsburgh for training camp and said, ‘Son, you are going to go out there, and there will be so many things that are out of your control. But you have 100% control over your effort. You control your hard work and how much you want it. Focus on what you can control.’ ” Keisel said. “That really stuck with me.

“I appreciate you all being good leaders in your community. It’s OK to be kind. It’s OK to do something nice for somebody just to do it. You guys are the future. We need more of you to grab your friends and peers around the neck and be like, ‘Let’s make this world a better place.’ I believe in you. Go do it.”

Jennifer Bertetto, president and chief executive officer at Trib Total Media, shared her experiences in sportsmanship and personal responsibility through her time as a champion softball pitcher at Leechburg, as a member of the first-ever Blue Devils girls volleyball team, and her time working to help build Trib Total Media into the successful organization it is today.

“I can assure you, my path was not always filled with victories,” Bertetto said. “I have endured my share of defeats on the field and in my professional career. But I do not fear failure. I fear not continuing to grow. If I can give you one piece of advice today, I would encourage you to look inward when facing challenging times. Ask, what lessons have I learned? How can I become better? How can I make those around me better? And most importantly, how can I help those around me achieve their goals and their dreams?”

Members of the WPIAL Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council presented ways for athletes and teams to display cultural competency through the ability to interact and relate to people different than them in a positive way through the basics of acceptance, appreciation, acknowledgment and attention.

The committee encouraged all to remember to always “Do no harm” by thoughts, words or actions.

The WPIAL Sportsmanship Committee recognized the winners of the 2019-20 WPIAL Sportsmanship Awards for each schools’ efforts to promote the tenants of leadership and sportsmanship through responsible actions before, during and after competition and throughout the school year.

This year’s award winners are Derry, Hampton, Laurel and Upper St. Clair.

New to the WPIAL Sportsmanship Summit was the presentation of awards for the inaugural WPIAL Community Food Drive conducted through the fall.

More than 40 schools took part in the collection of food or the raising of funds, with Verona’s Redeemer Lutheran, Moon, Knoch, Quaker Valley, Avonworth, Fort Cherry and Union high schools earning award recognition for their efforts.

TribLive HSSN offered a live stream broadcast of the summit event so more than those in attendance were able to experience the mission of WPIAL sportsmanship and leadership. The summit is archived on the Trib HSSN website.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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