Try keeping a secret from an entire school for weeks on end when you know the reveal will lead to a community celebration. A tough ask for sure, but that’s what a pair of Englefeld School Grade 8 students, Ella Altermatt and Quindelyn Carter, and their principal, Corinne Harcourt did. It was all in aid of surprising the Englefeld Eagles senior volleyball team with an SHSAA Sportsmanship Award from this year’s provincial competition held in Beechy and Lucky Lake. The two students were enlisted as the sole helpers from the student body to prepare for the surprise event, and the pair contained the excitement and kept the secret to themselves. The presentation was made on Wednesday, February 15 in front of the student body, parents and guests. 

Students were marshalled into the gym under the guise of a career presentation. The bewildered boys team donned their jerseys and were ushered in by their Eagles mascot to the strains of “Who Let The Dogs Out”, and the celebration truly got underway.

On hand to present the banner was Saskatchewan High School Athletics Association Executive Director Dave Sandomirsky. 

“It is well known when you are in competition that there is a winner and a loser,” acknowledged Sandomirsky to the team and the audience. “In our society, we tend to reward and celebrate the winner. But how do you react when you lose? How do you react when you win? How do you carry yourself as a team in competition? We realized some years back that this is an important aspect of sport. Being positive requires recognition.”

That bit of enlightenment, with the help of sponsors Sask Milk, saw the birth of the SHSAA Sportsmanship Award. The blue banners hang in high schools throughout Saskatchewan, honouring those athletes who exemplify the positive spirit of sportsmanship and inclusion. Serving specialist Logan ven der Buhs has found a place with the team and has made rock solid contributions, demonstrating his skill in putting the ball in play. For coach Drew Ross, who was kept in the dark about the award along with the boys, that spirit of inclusion of all in sport is at the heart of the team’s success. 

“That’s our whole thing,” Ross says. “Making sure everyone has a turn to play wherever we can get them to play. That’s the goal - to get everyone in the game no matter their skill level.”

Ross says it's the first time in his year as a coach that one of his teams has received a Sportsmanship award, and he felt proud of his connection to the Eagles. 

Captain of the team, Marc Cabingan, recognizes the importance of that team building and treats sportsmanship as something to be aspired to.

“This is a team award and that’s our goal. We always want to represent our school as a whole.”

Brian Grest brought greetings from the Horizon School Division and the Horizon Central Athletic Association.
“We are extremely proud of our student athletes, as well as its coaches and as represented by communities as a whole. Sometimes we get a little caught up on the concept of winning, but athletics in education is about character education, so what you’re hearing today is that these students, through the guidance of their coach, have learned about character. That lesson is every bit as important as winning championships.”

The Eagles volleyball team earned the honour under the watchful eyes of SHSAA members and officials at provincials. It’s the way the school athletes and students conduct themselves in competition, and in everyday life, that makes Englefeld School worthy of the no-longer secret celebration.