John Varlas, high school sports reporter for the Daily Memphian and Tom Kreager, high school sports editor for the USA Today Network and The Tennessean, will offer their perspectives alongside more than 35 speakers and panelists at the NFHS Behavior in Sports Summit: Understanding Your Influence to be held August 14-16 at the Conrad Hotel in Indianapolis. Richard McWhirter, assistant executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association will also join a group of panelists in a discussion devoted to laying a foundation for good behavior in middle school.
The Behavior in Sports Summit is a follow-up to two Officials Consortiums sponsored by the NFHS the past two years during which officials’ groups addressed behavior issues that have caused thousands of individuals to leave the officiating avocation and impacted others from becoming officials.
“Recent surveys indicate that despite the efforts of many individuals, groups and organizations, the behavior at events and abuse of officials is continuing across the country,” said Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS chief executive officer. “We are tired of talking about the problems. It is time to start formulating solutions to the behavior issues at high school – and middle school – sporting events nationwide.
“We are excited about the incredible group of speakers assembled for this first-ever Behavior in Sports Summit. We have individuals from all aspects of the high school sports scene involved in this Summit because we know it will require efforts on the part of everyone to change the culture in interscholastic sports.”
Anne Marie Anderson, a three-time Emmy Award winning broadcaster who has been involved in sports television for more than three decades and has covered six Olympic Games, will deliver the keynote address – “The Roadmap to Healthy Behavior in Education-based Sports” at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, August 14. In addition to her vast professional accomplishments, which also includes covering Super Bowls, and NBA and Major League Baseball playoffs, Anderson is a mother of three who has seen first-hand the behavior challenges at high school sporting events.
Anderson will also moderate the First General Session at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 15. The session on “Working with Parents and Other Fans to Promote Better Behavior” will include the following panelists: Khristen Vanderwey, tennis coach at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona; John Varlas, high school sports reporter, Daily Memphian in Memphis, Tennessee; Alva Amaker, high school coach, official, athletic director, consultant from Maryland; and Jennifer Beck, a television anchor/producer with WTLW-TV, in Lima, Ohio.
Later that morning, Anderson will serve as a discussion leader for the breakout session on “Adjusting Media Coverage from High School to College and Pro Sports.” Assisting Anderson will be J.P. Murrieta, sports information director of the New Mexico Activities Association in Albuquerque. The other breakout topic for this session is “Be the Authority at High School Events” and will be led by Rich Barton, assistant director of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association; and Mike Mossbrucker, athletic director of Mooresville (Indiana) High School.
Another general session on the agenda Tuesday morning is titled “Considering all Stakeholders in Social Media Sharing.” Roger Harvey, principal and managing director of strategic communications with Bose Public Affairs Group in Indianapolis and former Emmy-award winning television journalist, will moderate the session intended to explore the positive and negative impacts of sharing high school sports-related content on social media.
Panelists for this session include Nick Stevens, senior editor of HighSchoolOT.com, the online high school sports hub for WRAL-TV, Raleigh, North Carolina; Tom Kreager, high school sports editor, USA Today Network, Nashville, Tennessee; and Kevin Conrad, director of the Center Grove Sports Network, Indiana.
Because of the importance of setting behavior expectations for student-athletes, parents and fans prior to high school, the Third General Session at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 15, addresses “Laying the Foundation for Good Behavior: Invest in Your Middle Schools.”
Julie Cochran, NFHS director of sports who is the staff liaison to the newly formed NFHS Middle School Committee, will moderate the session, which includes Nicole Schaefbauer, executive director, and Chris Frasco, assistant executive director, of the Illinois Elementary School Association in Bloomington; Marti Reed, director of national partnerships and DEI programming manager with the Positive Coaching Alliance; and Richard McWhirter, assistant executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.
Four NFHS member state association executive directors will share new sportsmanship efforts and programs during the Fourth General Session at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 15. The session, which will be moderated by Karissa Niehoff, will include executive director Doug Ute, Ohio High School Athletic Association; Lauren Thomas, director of student activities, Vermont Principals’ Association; Mike Krueger, commissioner of the Colorado High School Activities Association; and Ron Nocetti, executive director of the California Interscholastic Federation.
The second breakout session on Tuesday afternoon includes the topics of “Balancing Sportsmanship and Success” and “Messaging Your Expectations-Event Security.” Discussion leaders for the Sportsmanship session include Monica Maxwell, assistant executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association; Meagan Frank, a coach, speaker and author from Menomonie, Wisconsin; and Stephen Baldwin, athletic director, Brookfield (Connecticut) High School.
Jay Hammes, former high school athletic director and president of Safe Sport Zone, will direct the session on event security, along with Rhonda Blanford-Green, former commissioner of the Colorado High School Activities Association.
The final breakout session on Wednesday morning will address the topics of “Not Just for Clicks: Seeing the Good with the Bad in All Coverage of High School Sports” and “Modeling Behavior from the Sideline – Working with Officials.”
John Holt, director of media/sports information with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, and Marty Bannister, sports radio host, WONE-AM, Dayton, Ohio, are the panelists for the first topic, while Barb Chura, soccer coach, Xavier College Prep, Phoenix, Arizona; Tim Leighton, communications director and official, Minnesota State High School League; and Marti Reed, Positive Coaching Alliance, will direct discussion for the modeling behavior topic.
The final general session at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 16, on “Mental Health: Parent Triggers and Student Impact” will be led by Meagan Frank, coach, speaker and author from Menomonie, Wisconsin, and Teg Cosgriff, a retired athletic director from Connecticut and vice-president of The Mental Game Academy.
The Summit will include five general sessions and three breakout sessions and concludes at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, August 16. Along with closing comments from Karissa Niehoff, perspectives on the state of officiating nationwide will be provided by Bill Topp, the newly named president of the National Association of Sports Officials, and Dana Pappas, NFHS director of officiating services.
Registration for the Summit is free and remains open through this week.