IHSAA Op-Ed: The Conundrum of Recognition

April 4, 2013 | by Bobby Cox, IHSAA Commissioner

Recently an article was published on the topic of the Arthur L. Trester Award for Mental Attitude which is annually presented by the Indiana High School Athletic Association, Inc. and Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance.  While I appreciate the added media attention fostered upon this prestigious award, there exists several omissions and rationales not discussed by the original author that deserve discussion.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit, voluntary membership organization consisting of 410 member schools that provide education-based athletic programming for over 160,000 student athletes in the Hoosier State.  Our organizations are fortunate to present 41 mental attitude awards to deserving high school seniors across the state in 20 sports.  Since the inception of our partnership, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance has presented over $785,000 to these future leaders.  Our gratitude could not be higher and our appreciation could not be more heartfelt.

What the author of the original piece failed to share with you the reader was, as Paul Harvey used to so eloquently state is, “the rest of the story.”  As of the 2011-12 school year, the IHSAA has added a personal interview with the recipient and his/her parents, which appears in venues where possible and on our telecasts, internet streams and radio broadcasts.  Immediately upon the announcement of the mental attitude award winner, a press release is distributed to our attending news media, specifically targeted toward the local media covering the recipient’s community and school. It is contained in the written recap of every state championship event and maintained on our website at IHSAA.org. Additionally, each mental attitude award winner is highlighted in the IHSAA’s electronic newsletter, “The Spectator,” which is disseminated to over 2,000 statewide beneficiaries three times each year.  And, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance utilizes social media to recognize all the recipients.

Another important component to this discussion, is to understand that while team sports will have only two or perhaps three nominees per state championship event, individual sports which are contested as one championship may have anywhere from 30-50 candidates.  The IHSAA Executive Committee takes great care in the selection of these deserving students and in many cases delays their decisions until late in the championship event.  The IHSAA Mental Attitude Award stands as the highest award bestowed upon a student-athlete and the Committee ensures that the selection is just and deserving, right down to the final buzzer.  A detailed dissertation of the recipient’s qualifications during the presentation is neither feasible nor practical.  Our hope is that the personal story will be reflected during the interview which has been added along with our extended conversation of the recipient.

As our organization continues to evolve and develop in a more demanding and transparent society, our diligent efforts will remain grounded in the proper recognition of the inherent values of education-based athletics.  The IHSAA, along with Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance and all our corporate partners and supporters, will persist to forge a path of excellence which trumpets the student-athlete and all which is good about high school sports.  It is a conundrum we heartily embrace.