We are the Champions!
Students at Camelot of Oak Park have won the flag football division championship for The Chicago Area Alternative Education League (CAAEL).
The CAEL championship isn’t based on wins and losses; it’s based on sportsmanship. The league is made up of city and suburban Chicago area therapeutic day schools, schools attached to hospitals and the like. Students compete throughout the school year in different activities including football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and in non-sports like a chess tournament and academic competition.
“We are very proud of our students, “said Ryan Martin, who coaches the team in addition to his physical education teaching responsibilities. “All the kids look forward to the big awards banquet at the end of the year, but the biggest awards in this league are for sportsmanship. That’s what makes winning this championship in football so special.”
Oak Park competes in the high school division. Although Oak Park has both middle and high school grades, there aren’t enough middle school students to form a team so they play on the high school team. According to Mr. Martin, who is in his “rookie season” with Camelot this provides a great opportunity for the older students to serve as mentors.
Participating in the league also serves as academic incentive for Oak Park students, who attend the school for support of social and emotional disorders. Mr. Martin says a lot of kids work hard in school to get their status up just so they can play sports. He tells the story of one student who upgraded his status and was able to go.
“I think it’s the first time he earned off-site privileges and was out of the building. He proved himself, showed respect for the other team and ended up winning the award. Now he’s been a Spartan (the school’s mascot and name for student government members) for several weeks,” Mr. Martin said.
So how does the award evaluation work? Each team huddles after the game and decides who showed the best sportsmanship. The Camelot team picks two winners and the opposing team chooses two winners on the Camelot side. Sportsmanship ribbons are handed out to the winning players.
“At Camelot we add a little extra onto it,” Mr. Martin said. “Winners get their picture on the wall for the week as the Camelot sportsmanship winner. Also, after every match we go out to eat and the two winners get to choose the location.”
Victory is sweet!