KINGMAN - High school sports fans know that at the end of the day the wins and losses aren't the important things. Sports are designed to teach about life. Sports and life "require perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority," according to Vince Lombardi.
Nina Dagen, a member of the Lee Williams High Booster Club, believes etiquette needs to be incorporated into sports as part of teaching life skills, and she's done just that.
"Our whole philosophy is to get them (student-athletes) ready for life," said Eugene Kramer, LWHS football coach. "It's more than football here. We want to teach them how to be good young men."
Dagen hosted an "etiquette dinner" recently for approximately 50 Volunteers football players. She opened with a presentation where the players could see appropriate table manners and social behaviors in action.
After the presentation, the team practiced what they learned about the different glasses on the table, what to do with the napkin, the difference between the forks, how long to wait when food is served, how to seat one's partner, how to signal to the servers when you are finished, etc.
It wasn't just about how things were done, the question why was also answered.
"Napkins are placed on your lap so food doesn't end up on your clothes," Dagen said. "They were told that is was OK to leave a little soup at the bottom of the bowl. There wasn't a need to slurp it up."
This all came together from the result of a few simple handshakes. LWHS hosted an outside function several months ago, and Kramer put his team to work ushering and controlling traffic. Dagen was there to help out.
"I didn't know all of them," she said. "There were several of them who had horrible handshakes."
So Dagen approached Kramer about holding a handshake clinic, and the Volunteers did that. Dagen had recently read former University of Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson's autobiography. Within those pages, Olson described having his players go through etiquette training, and the idea arrived at Lee Williams.
"It sounded like fun. I mean, what is etiquette?" sophomore Kyle Wegner said. "It's about eating properly in public, not shoveling food in your mouth, and putting your napkin in your lap. Act as though your grandmother is at the table."
Though the boys at the dinner did not dress formally because they had other sports to attend afterward, it is something that will be addressed at future clinics. Dagen said they would be trying to host clinics during the season when they can dress formally and learn about that aspect of etiquette.
The idea struck home for many of the LWHS student-athletes. And they recommend for all young people to learn.
"It's something you don't learn in high school. It's special," said sophomore Kaleb Smith. "It was a lot of fun. We learned how to be gentlemen, how to eat and how to treat our dates."