April 28—The Northwestern College volleyball team is one of 15 groups and individuals who will be recognized at the 2011 National Sportsmanship Awards produced by the St. Louis Sports Commission this Saturday. Eagles head coach Beth Wilmeth will be accepting the award on her team's behalf. This is the second major sportsmanship award the team has been given in the last year.
After Northwestern set a school record for victories with a 30–7 record in 2008, Wilmeth sought to establish a new standard for success. She preached integrity and she wanted her players to display that principle on the court. After seeing one of the Eagles' opponents make honor calls, the team decided to implement its own system in which it surrenders a point it doesn't deserve. If a student-athlete touches a shot that goes out of bounds and the officials miss the touch, the Eagles self-report it. Initially, officials were taken aback at tournaments where Northwestern competed. The NCAA was even contacted to determine if Northwestern's actions were fair. Representatives from the NCAA ruled that honor calls are not only fair, but also encouraged.
Despite the loss of 30 points during the 2009 season, the honor calls didn't cost NWC a match. Northwestern reached a new pinnacle on the court in 2010, advancing to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in program history. The Eagles lost 3–2 to St. Olaf College, and two honor calls within a couple points had a major impact on the match's final result as each game finished with a two- or three-point difference between the two teams.
The focus on honesty and integrity has also had an effect on Northwestern's opponents. Other teams followed the Eagles' lead and instituted their own versions of the honor call system. Middle blocker Elissa Sandstrom told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “It still stinks giving up a point, but it feels right. Other teams have said, 'Thank you for being honest.' And if you want to be a person of integrity, you have to have it in all areas.”
Read full mention at www.nwceagles.com.