Incidents of bad sportsmanship in baseball make headlines, whether it’s a Major League Baseball bench clearing brawl or a Little League parent being banished from the ballpark for belligerence.
Good sportsmanship, however, often goes unrecognized. But, make no mistake, good sportsmanship is important in teaching valuable lessons that go far beyond the playing field.
Brian Winslow, who has been FCTS varsity baseball coach for two years, teaches his players how to play the game properly, but he also places a great emphasis on good sportsmanship. His efforts are being recognized this year as the winner of the 2014 Hampshire Franklin Baseball Umpires Association Sportsmanship Award. The award is given annually to the coach and team that combines the “best excellent play and the good spirit of sporting competition,” according to the HFBUA website.
Winslow will receive the award at the organization’s annual banquet on June 27 at the Pavilion at Nonotuck Park in Easthampton.
“We preach sportsmanship and respect for the game,” Winslow said. “Sportsmanship is very important and we take it seriously as a program as a whole. High school sports are a great opportunity for kids to learn valuable life lessons. As a coaching staff, we really work hard to help our student-athletes learn these lessons and we really try to show the kids that the game of baseball can be a vehicle to help them improve as people and citizens.”
Arthur Burke, HFBUA secretary/treasurer and an umpire, said Winslow and the FCTS team “played and behaved in exemplary fashion” during the games he umpired.
“The boys played intelligently and skillfully during games with Granby and Pathfinder; the Franklin Tech team competed very well with both of those tournament-bound opponents,” he said. “Brian and all of his players conducted themselves wonderfully during both of those games, despite sustaining a loss by a narrow margin on both occasions. No one commented about a decision of an umpire, even though there were occasions when many players and coaches might have commented critically.”
Burke said when Winslow needed clarification on certain rules, he did so quietly and politely.
“Brian set a wonderful example for his players and their parents on all occasions; the youngsters and their parents followed his lead,” he said. “In turn, I had a great time umpiring at Franklin Tech this spring, and look forward to supervising games there in the future. I imagine fully that Brian and his team impressed many other umpires in the same very favorable way they impressed me.”
Winslow started teaching special education at FCTS in January 2011. That spring he began coaching baseball as a volunteer assistant under coach Joe Gamache. He did this for two seasons before taking over as head coach in the spring of 2013. Prior to coming to FCTS, Winslow coached junior varsity baseball at Greenfield High School for three seasons.
When Winslow took over as the head varsity baseball coach and Science teacher Dan Prasol began coaching junior varsity, they decided to form one cohesive program with a singular philosophy.
“We wanted to develop a program where the kids would buy into a system,” Winslow said. “We emphasize respect for the game, how we play the game, and how we interact with each other and the officials. One program, one mission. Dan and I have really worked hard at that.”
Besides Winslow as head coach, Colin Benedict, Matt Gilbert and Tim Dowd are volunteer baseball assistant coaches who help out at both the junior varsity and varsity levels.
“We try to find guys who are the right fit as coaches, whether it’s because of skills or their belief in the mission of the school,” Winslow said. “I bring in good people who know the game and who will have a positive energy and emphasize the positive elements as far as effort and attitude.”
This philosophy of sportsmanship extends to other school teams, as well, and has been noticed by rival coaches and administrators.
Winslow and Prasol together coached boys soccer in the fall of 2011 and the team was recognized by Joan M. Schultz, Lenox Memorial Middle and High School athletic director, following a tournament game between FCTS and Lenox in which the tech school team showed exceptional sportsmanship.
“The team showed the most positive show of sportsmanship I have seen in a long time,” Schulz said of the FCTS soccer team. “The coaching staff and players were a delight to have. They were the true winners in this game.”
Although he is honored to win the Sportsmanship Award, Winslow said he could not have done it without the hard work and dedication of his players.
“Yes, I won the award but it’s about the kids buying into the system athletically and mentally,” he said. “The kids are what really make a baseball team. I’m just the facilitator. I want to thank the HFBUA for this special honor. It’s a privilege to be able to teach this great game to a great group of kids.”