For the second year in a row, Northwestern High School’s sportsmanship and ethics have earned statewide recognition. NHS is one of 27 schools to earn the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Award of Excellence for 2018-19. The school also received the award for the 2017-18 school year.

Criteria for the award include stressing sportsmanship in meetings with coaches, athletes and fans as well as a focus on student leadership and giving back to the community.

“We do the things that are on the list, not necessarily because it’s on the list, it’s just kind of the way we do business,” said NHS Athletic Director and Activities Coordinator Brian Smith.

Tiger athletes comprise more than half the student population at NHS. Approximately 250 of the school’s roughly 420 students participate in athletics every year. The school offers 13 sports and co-ops with Superior and Ashland school districts to offer four additional athletic opportunities.

The young athletes also invest their energy in the community.

“They’re doing plenty of good things,” Smith said.

Members of the girls and boys basketball teams help with an annual 3-on-3 tournament in memory of Gabe Dinkle; the girls basketball team runs a traveling team program for fifth- and sixth-graders; softball and baseball teams host field cleanup days; the football team puts on a free youth football clinic every year; and the wrestling team puts in docks for people.

Student athletes are active in many of the school’s clubs and organizations. Some clean a stretch of highway with the NHS Green Club; others collect canned food each fall for those in need as members of the National Honor Society.

One thing Smith launched last year to help meet award criteria was a Student Athletic Leadership Team. The group meets on a regular basis and attends leadership training as well as a sportsmanship summit.

Sportsmanship is emphasized at both the school and conference level, for athletes and fans.

“We do expect our student fans to behave in a certain way,” Smith said. “We talk about it with our student fans. How they need to behave at games and emphasize cheering for us, not cheering against the other team.”

The Heart O’ the North conference recognizes sportsmanship at schools on a sports-by-sports basis, as well. It's a lesson Tigers have taken to heart. NHS fans earned an honorable mention for their sportsmanship at the boys state basketball game in March, Smith said.

The WIAA oversees 511 high schools and 43 middle schools. The annual award of excellence recognizes schools for their efforts and achievements in the areas of sportsmanship, ethics, integrity, leadership and character.