West Chester University welcomed NBC 10 sports anchor and former Philadelphia Eagles punt return specialist Via Sikahema to speak on the issue of civility and competition last Wednesday.The event was held in the Sykes Ballrooms and approximately 200 students attended.
In addition, West Chester hosted an open forum with Golden Ram coaches and a student-athlete to speak on the issue. Those who answered questions were football head coach Bill Zwaan, soccer head coach Kendall Walkes, basketball senior standout Carolyn Muldoon, and others.
The panel answered questions dealing with sportsmanship, recruiting violations, fans’ and parents’ behaviors, and the overall state of NCAA athletics on all levels as it proceeds through the new millennium.
“In general, we’re losing the battle against good sportsmanship in Division I athletics and professional sports. But I think in Division II sports it isn’t so bad because everybody wants to play and be a part of a team. On our team, an attitude will get you on the bench,” said Muldoon who represented the student athlete portion of the panel.
Zwaan agrees that the sports world is losing ground in behaving civilly and television provides ample proof of this. “We’re losing the battle with civility because too many people are rewarded for acting up; all you have to do is turn on the channel ESPN,” said Zwaan. “Our goal is that when a student-athlete graduates from our program, we want them to be mature. I hope they will showcase good sportsmanship in all aspects of life.”
Muldoon witnessed an incident with fans and parents at a game which, left her in disbelief. “At a game earlier this season, opposing fans from another team were yelling different things, really nasty things, about our head coach’s appearance and how she acts on the sidelines. It had absolutely nothing to do with the game itself. However, I can really say that our own fans have been very good and supportive at all our games.”
The issue of competition and civility in sports has become a heated national debate in the past few months. There have been issues of rape involving a female football player at the University of Colorado. The once prestigious Saint John’s University basketball program is in danger of being terminated because of the actions of several players at a strip club. And the rapid number of collegiate athletes leaving school early for the professional ranks is killing the level of college sports.
The afternoon ended with sports anchor Sikahema, who deals with college and professional athletes every day. He gave his take on the issues when he said, “The best thing to do in the media is to show positive things, but unfortunately the media feels it’s not sexy enough. Competition is way over-blown partly because it is loved so much,” said Sikahema, whose claim to fame was scoring the winning touchdown for the Eagles against the Giants back in 1993. Then, while in the end zone he started punching the Giants’ goalpost, giving tribute to his father who loved boxing.
Sikahema’s lasting message to the audience was simple: “Be competitive but balance your life with service whether it’s tutoring or whatever, because you will get an extreme sense of satisfaction and doing good.