Bench Bad Behavior pledge seeks a lasting impact on Section I Athletics

don't be that fan graphic

Pledge read by players before games since February and throughout postseason play

Just prior to the playing of the National Anthem at the Westchester County Center, high school basketball fans, athletes and even coaches are transfixed. Those involved may experience butterflies, but there is also optimism and an intense focus on the competition that’s about to begin.

Such moments, before a large, rapt audience, provided the ideal moment to expose both the crowd and the competitors to an important sportsmanship initiative adopted by Section I and its member schools this winter: Bench Bad Behavior.

The message, which originated with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), seeks to restore civility and encourage positive behavior at interscholastic athletic contests. It stresses the importance of learning, growing and developing character through athletics and implores fans and participants to refrain from criticizing athletes, coaches and officials.

girl and coach reading pledge at game“Promoting sportsmanship is a major priority for Section I Athletics,” said Executive Director Todd Santabarbara. “The Bench Bad Behavior initiative is an important component to that. We as an organization were pleased to see so many of our schools unite behind this positive message and hope it can continue to resonate with our fans, student-athletes and coaches."

Alexa Robinson, a three-sport athlete from Hendrick Hudson, agrees.

“It’s an important message because the bad behavior that occurs on the sidelines and in the stands is a distraction for the athletes playing,” said Alexa, who plays soccer, basketball and lacrosse. “Student-athletes are supportive of Bench Bad Behavior because it allows for fair play, more focus on the game, and eliminates all the negativity during the game to enjoy the true meaning of sports.”

students reading pledge before gameSchools first embraced the initiative in early February. Adults or student-athletes across Section I read the Bench Bad Behavior pledge prior to games. The message continued to be shared by many schools during the postseason, including prior to every semifinal and championship boys and girls basketball game played during Championship Week at the County Center.

At each contest, a student from each team joined to read the message just prior to the Anthem.

“For nine straight days, we spent a lot of time together,” said Briarcliff High School Athletic Director Chris Drosopoulos, a co-chairperson for Section I girls basketball. “That was probably one of the highlights of our week how the student-athletes and coaches took pride in reading the Bench Bad Behavior statement.”

The live reading was also accompanied by a pre-recorded public service announcement played on the arena’s video boards.

students speaking courtside

“I loved the message and everything Bench Bad Behavior stands for,” said Quinn Monaghan, a senior on the Rye High School boys basketball team. “We talked about it in practice before our first game in the County Center, and we were reminded that being respectful on and off the court is our number one priority.”

The impact has continued this spring. Drosopoulos, who called the message “powerful,” said the Bench Bad Behavior pledge has been read at every Briarcliff sporting event this spring season.

“What we’re trying to get across is that one person practicing sportsmanship is better than 100 people trying to teach it,” Drosopoulos said. “This has been a collaborative effort with our coaches, our student-athletes, our leadership, our administration, and our parents.”

It is an effort that Section I believes will leave a lasting impact.