Sportsmanship never goes out of style

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Walk into just about any high school gymnasium in the Chicago area and you’re bound to find an IHSA Sportsmanship Banner. The banners are awarded after state tournaments for all sports. I was at Simeon Tuesday and the South Side school hangs its lone banner above the south bleachers in its gymnasium. But like most people, I have no idea how Simeon or other schools get their sportsmanship banners.

Led by its mascot, Add A. Tude, the IHSA has ramped up its promotion of sportsmanship for more than a decade. At state tournaments, you can find Add A. Tude roaming the sidelines and on the court between breaks.

I’ve had sportsmanship on my mind lately after seeing more and more banners. I stumbled across a story from the fall about a cross country runner, Izaic Yorks from Washington State, who shook the hands of fellow runners after beating them in a race. I’ve seen that done before. In nearly 25 years of covering high school sports, the biggest individual example of sportsmanship I have seen came around 1990 while covering the Wheaton North Invitational for girls cross country. The meet is a monster. It’s a flighted race where each team’s No. 1 runner goes against No. 1s from all other teams. No. 2s race against No. 2s, etc. There are seven races on the day, which makes for the longest day on the cross country calendar for spectators.

After one race, I was walking to the shelter where the scoring was kept and noticed a Glenbard South competitor, who stood alone at the end of the chute and shook the hands of each of her fellow runners, saying words of encouragement to each girl such as “Nice job.” I wish I could remember that runner’s name. I remember interviewing her afterward and writing a column for the now defunct Wheaton Daily Journal. I am told past issues of the Journal are still available via microfilm at the Wheaton Public Library. With today’s internet technology, I don’t think I’ve look at a newspaper on microfilm in perhaps 10 years. I had completely forgotten about that service. All I remember is what a pain it was to replace the cardboard wrapper around the microfilm before placing it back in the box.

I’ve thought a lot about the Daily Journal recently now that I am closer to the end of my sports writing career rather than at the beginning. Your first newspaper employer gives you a wonderful chance to make mistakes, learn and develop a craft for real compared to my journalism start with the Daily Cardinal at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

At the Daily Journal, I remember Bob Smith, Jim King, Bill Stone, Mike Sandrolini, Melody Arnold, Mark Feldmann, Thom Wilder, Joanne von Alroth, Kathryn Grondin, Matt Nickerson, Randy Belice, H. Rick Bamman, Steve Woltmann, Steve Lundy, Dave Curtis, Jack McCarthy, Sandy Stevens, Bob Goldsborough, John Hoffman, Lisa Rozema and Matt Simo.

There is no doubt about the biggest sportsmanship example I witnessed among teams. That came courtesy of former Downers Grove South girls volleyball coach Denise Lazzeroni-Kavanaugh (pictured, right) in the Class AA state tournament. After winning the state title in 1999, Kavanaugh’s Mustangs were upset in the semifinals by Barrington in 2000. Without any pressure of repeating, Kavanaugh met with Lincoln coach Charissa Howe and the two agreed that the teams should take the floor together for the third-place match.

In pre-match warmups, one player each from DGS and Lincoln played pepper together using the entire volleyball court. Even former IHSA volleyball coordinator, Sue Hinrichsen, came on the microphone at Redbird Arena in Normal to comment, “Now that’s sportsmanship.” I had to look it up. DGS won that match 15-5, 15-4.

Kavanaugh left high school volleyball in 2003 to become an assistant athletic director at Downers Grove North. She could have been a coaching lifer like Lyons’ Joann Pyritz, St. Francis’ Peg Kopec or Immaculate Conception’s Jean Field, but few knew that Kavanaugh’s true passion was to become an athletic director someday. Kavanaugh won three state titles, finished as runner-up twice and owned a 324-51 record since 1994 while coaching at her alma mater. But when Duane Buturusis retired from DGN, Kavanaugh took over as Trojans A.D. in 2005.

“It was really tough with leaving high school at Downers Grove South. I went there. It was home for me,” Kavanaugh said. “For me, my goal was to become an athletic director. I grew up in gyms while growing up in Cicero. I watched sports a lot.”

Now Kavanaugh is teaching her daughters (pictured, right) about sports. Last week, she attended the wrestling sectional with her oldest daughter, Kendal, an eighth grader, and taught her how to keep score. Kavanaugh no longer coaches at the high school level, but remains involved at the club volleyball level. She is a co-coach with the Western Springs-based 1st Alliance 18-Silver team. Kendal, a setter, plays for the club’s Lions Jrs. 14-1 team and will attend Benet in the fall. Quinn, a third grader, plays for Lisle-based Club Elite, which is now run by 1st Alliance/Lions Jrs. director Sue Keck.

Kendal will follow another standout setter from Woodridge. Junior Hannah Kaminsky, who led Benet to the Class 4A state title in November, actually started out as an outside hitter before switching positions for the Redwings. Her older brother, Frank, plays basketball for Wisconsin. Kaminsky’s mother is former Northwestern volleyball star and Glenbard West coach Mary Stack.

In an ironic twist, two of Kavanaugh’s former players at Downers South are currently coaching her daughters during this club volleyball season. Erika Van Hootegem Bradley coaches Kendal and Colleen Daly Korous coaches Quinn. Daly had the winning ace to claim DGS’ first state title in 1986 over Mother McAuley.

“I like doing this job. [Athletic director] is a great job for someone who likes sports and loves kids,” Kavanaugh said.

The Kaminskys: Mary (left to right), Frankie, Hannah and Frank.

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