In almost all sports, there are players or positions that are integral to a team’s success, but receive little to no credit in the grand scheme because they record minimal to no individual statistics. In the sports lexicon, those players are often crediting with doing the “dirty work.”
Bolingbrook High School Boy’s Soccer Head Coach Jamie Clemmons (pictured below left)
set out to change that within his program a few years ago, when he began handing out “Man of the Match” t-shirts to key players. The shirts were often an opportunity to recognize his defenders, who are critical to team success, but rarely record any stats.
That idea has morphed into a new program this year that will honor individuals, but only as long as they aren’t
doing any dirty work.
During its 10-match Southwest Suburban Conference slate this fall, Bolingbrook will honor one individual from its own team and one from the opposing team with a Sportsmanship medallion (pictured)
at all home and away conference matches.
“We didn’t want any of our opponents to feel like we were being disrespectful or upstaging them in any way by handing out these awards,” said Clemmons. “So I brought the idea up at a conference meeting and all the other conference coaches supported it. Often times, the conference sportsmanship award was awarded to the last place team, almost as a default. We wanted to seek out, promote and recognize sportsmanship in every match.”
Sportsmanship is something that Clemmons, an Andrew High School and Aurora University grad, has taken very seriously since taking over the Bolingbrook program in 2005. The Raiders won the Southwest Suburban Conference Team Sportsmanship Award a year ago, as well as the team sportsmanship award at the Windy City Ram Classic. At the Ram Classic, Clemmons also received the Coaching Sportsmanship Award, while senior Luis Loya was the recipient of the player’s version of the accolade. The team has shown that sportsmanship and success can go hand-in-hand, as the Raiders are currently three victories away from winning double-digit matches for fourth time in five seasons.
“The players in our program understand that the coaches are the only ones who talk to the officials,” said Clemmons. “They are there to play and we are there to coach. Generally, the only (yellow or red) cards we see our players get are for aggressive play on tackles or for loose balls, which is a part of the game and part of competing.”
The first Sportsmanship medallions were awarded following Bolingbrook’s home match against Thornton on September 24, which the visitors won by a 3-1 tally. After the match, the coaches and captains from both teams met to discuss the award and then recognized Thornton’s Emmanuel Barjebo and Bolingbrook’s Hugo Lopez (pictured)
as the players who had exhibited great sportsmanship and integrity throughout the contest.
“The medallion was a surprise and I was grateful to receive it,” said Barjebo. “It gives me pride and my team pride to receive it. Sportsmanship is all about encouragement and this award is proof that you are a respectful person and player.”
Clemmons hopes that the post-game sportsmanship award will become a conference-wide initiative, something that will be discussed in meetings later this year. Regardless, he will continue to keep things in perspective.
“Sometimes as coaches, we get wrapped up in X’s and O’s and wins and losses,” said Clemmons. “We are here to make our kids better players, students and people. There is no better feeling then when a player comes back to see you or see the team when they are home on break. When that happens, you know you made an impact.”
Clemmons' impact will be felt on soccer fields throughout the Southwest Suburban Conference this fall.