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Focus on sportsmanship helps Canton win Michaels Achievement Cup

Canton won a Michaels Achievement Cup for the fifth time earlier this month. (Photo courtesy CIAC)

SOUTHINGTON – Canton High was of 19 state schools that was recently recognized for their sportsmanship by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) in the 2017-18 season with a Michaels Achievement Cup.

It’s the third time in the last four years that Canton has been recognized with a Michaels Achievement Cup but the focus of the award has been changed.

When it was first started in the 1980s, the award was to recognize outstanding athletic programs. In 2008, the CIAC took over administration of the program and in recent years, schools were recognized for their sportsmanship, participation, athletic scholarship, athletic personnel, equity, chemical free initiatives and athletic achievement.

Today, the schools are being recognized for the overall sportsmanship of their entire program and the school’s voluntary participation in the CIAC’s Class Act School sportsmanship initiative to promote sound sportsmanship principles for participants and fans.

“We are very proud of our student athletes as well as the overall school community for their role in creating a positive athletic environment based on sportsmanship and community,” said Drew DiPippo, principal at Canton High.

The Class Act School program was launched by the CIAC in 2016 to empower schools and students to enhance sportsmanship.

“The essence of the program is for the students to try and take ownership of sportsmanship at their schools. That is exactly what these 19 schools have done,” said Glenn Lungarini, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools and CIAC. “The energy and enthusiasm they’ve fostered along with the positivity surrounding their athletic programs is what we are pleased to recognize and highlight.”

It’s the second year the Michaels Achievement Cup recognizes Class Act School participants.

The committee examined how seriously schools embraced the Class Act School program. “Are they really committed to it and are they trying different and innovative ways to make the program a part of the school and have it really impact sportsmanship,” CIAC spokesperson Joel Cookson said.

Across the state, 107 schools have agreed to participate in the Class Act School program.

“We were thrilled to see the creative and thorough approaches the 19 honorees have used to address sportsmanship challenges,” said Dr. Beth Smith, principal at Shelton High and Michaels Cup Committee chairperson. “The committee understands that, at times, schools have challenges when it comes to sportsmanship or behavior.

“The Class Act goal is for schools to utilize the wonderful leadership and energy of its students to promote improvement and to address concerns, and these 19 programs have embraced that challenge,” Smith said.

As part of the Class Act program, Canton prepared a video with DiPippo and athletic coordinator Kim Church and cameos from staff members from across the building.

Warrior Sportsmanship Pledge

“I am so proud of the work of athletic coordinator Kim Church for her leadership in steering our athletic programs towards this award,” DiPippo said. “She has brought forward outstanding organization, communication and excitement that all facets of our athletic community have come to appreciate. She has been instrumental in creating a positive environment and high expectations with coaches who in turn, generate a similar environment with all players. “

The athletic department has taken part in a variety of community service activities including raising funds for the Canton Food Bank and the Susan B. Komen Foundation.

“Winning the Michael’s Cup for the third time in the last four years is a great point of pride for our school and community,” Church said. “At Canton we really try to instill strong character values in our student-athletes.

“Our coaches and staff members do a great job being role models for the student-athletes. This award represents how Canton acts on and off the playing arena,” Church said.

Canton previously won the Michaels Achievement Cup for the 2015-16 and 2014-15 seasons. Canton previous won a Michaels Achievement Cup in 1994 and 2008 for being the top team in Class S. The Warriors were second in Class S in 1995 and 1998.

It’s a nice award for Canton, whose reputation was muddied in February 2017 when some fans taunted visiting fans from Hartford Classical during a NCCC Tournament boys basketball game with chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump” and waving a (Donald) Trump/(Mike) Pence campaign banner from the 2016 presidential election.

“I really want it to be known that a majority of our school finds that (chant) unacceptable,” said Abbe Skinner, then a senior on the girls basketball team said two days later when the Canton girls basketball team hosted Windham High in a CIAC Tournament game. “There are still a handful of defiant students but I don’t think they represent our school as a whole. But they are part of our community so we need to take responsibility, move forward and take action.”

Simsbury was one of the 18 other schools honored with a Michaels Achievement Cup along with Amity, Berlin, Bloomfield, Bunnell-Stratford, Cheshire, Coginchaug-Durham, Derby, East Catholic, Glastonbury. Haddam-Killingworth, Lyman Memorial-Lebanon, Wolcott Tech-Torrington, Shelton, Shepaug Valley-Washington, Suffield, Gilbert-Winsted and Westbrook.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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