It Takes Special People to Give Florida High School Athletics
Their Unique Character
By Dr. Peggy Jones
Associate Executive Director
Florida High School Athletic Association
In the past two months, the Florida High School Athletic Association has named eight Florida legends as the newest inductees into our Hall of Fame, we identified the winter Academic Team Champions based on classroom achievement, we named 24 outstanding students to the Academic All-State team, and we announced the results of a contest to pinpoint the school with the most spirit. Later this school year we will present sportsmanship and Academic All-State awards.
From one perspective, these acknowledgments are far removed from the daily routine of Florida high school athletics – no games took place, no rules were enforced, no new standards were established. But the way we at FHSAA see it, these recognitions are entirely what high school athletics and our association are all about.
One of the great pleasures of helping to administer FHSAA is the opportunity to recognize some truly outstanding Floridians, as we have done in recent weeks. Whether these individuals are just beginning a life-long relationship with athletics, or reflecting on a lifetime well-spent, it is always uplifting to give them the attention they so richly deserve.
It’s probably inevitable that FHSAA is most typically associated with rules and penalties, since we are the official sanctioning authority for high school athletics in Florida. But no one should overlook the importance of fostering such traditional values as sportsmanship, dedication and fair play. That’s why the recent acknowledgments should not slip by unnoticed.
As the FHSAA website notes, our core mission is “building leaders through teamwork, sportsmanship and citizenship.” Participation in high school athletics teaches young student-athletes invaluable lessons they will carry with them the rest of their lives – things like commitment, teamwork and integrity. We are always mindful that we are helping to build society’s future leaders.
We want to develop individuals who are just as comfortable competing in the classroom as on the athletic field, and by highlighting the Academic All-State Team and winter Academic Team Champions we inspire them to always remember that they are students first and athletes second. At the same time, we seek to develop schools that understand interscholastic athletics are supposed to be fun and reflect a community’s pride; this year we crowned Clay High School as winner of the inaugural Sunshine State Spirit Showdown, a title won through enthusiasm, creativity and camaraderie. And we always want to remember those who give so much of themselves to make the high school experience such a special time for young athletes of all kinds – that is why we are adding eight shining examples of what high school athletics is all about to the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame, the highest honor our association can bestow on a person.
For all the news stories that arise when rules are violated and penalties are handed out, the real story of Florida high school athletics is these countless individuals who do things the right way, for the right reasons. We at FHSAA are proud to count them among our ranks, and all Floridians should join in congratulating them for their outstanding achievements.
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Dr. Peggy Jones is Associate Executive Director for Administrative Services for the Florida High School Athletic Association. She is a former principal at Sebastian River High School in Indian River County and also served for five years as an educator in Illinois, where she coached soccer, volleyball and track.