Amsterdam athletic director Steve Nolan takes a top-down approach to encouraging sportsmanship at the district’s sports events.
It starts, Nolan said, with encouraging coaches to lead by example and “control the controllable.”
“You can control what you plan for, what the kids are ready for,” Nolan said. “You can’t control what might happen — a bus breakdown on the way to a game, a call that you don’t feel goes your way. That’s stuff you can’t control. Only focus on what you can control, and let the chips fall where they may.”
It’s a philosophy that has earned Amsterdam a spot as one of three winners of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Sportsmanship Promotion Banner.
The award, according to NYSPHSAA, is “presented to schools who have developed proactive approaches in keeping sportsmanship in the forefront with their students, coaches, spectators, and communities.” This year, Amsterdam was honored alongside Section V’s Brockport and Section X’s Lisbon.
Nolan has developed several programs to help foster sportsmanship at Amsterdam athletic events, including a card system that encourages proper spectator behavior, signs at all athletic venues outlining expected behavior, a “Sports Safe Zone” at all athletic events that provides safety training and a “Sportsmanship Pride” program designed to limit the amount of verbal abuse aimed at officials.
“First,” Nolan said, “working with the coaches to convince them that their behavior towards officials rubs off on the kids and the parents. .
Amsterdam is just the fourth Section II school to win the Sportsmanship Promotion Banner since the program’s inception in 1995. Columbia was a banner recipient every year from 2013 to 2020, Mohonasen received a banner in 2002 and Cobleskill-Richmondville was honored in 2005 and 2012.
Nolan, who has been Amsterdam’s athletic director since December 2016, also led an athletic department that won the banner at his previous position at Section III’s Carthage in 2014.
“There’s a lot that you have to do as an AD to get through there,” Nolan said. “I just feel it’s important to promote sportsmanship here — starting with the coaches, having the coaches lead the kids and then try to speak with parents and educate parents.”