New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft speaking to local high school student athletes at the event.
A six-letter world with immeasurable meaning.
For Hopkinton High School on Friday, November 19, at Gillette Stadium, it was also a theme.
"Always treat all players with respect, regardless of the outcome of a match," said John Williamson, the school's varsity cross-country coach. "Respect is the biggest thing. We work really hard to teach our kids sportsmanship and to make sure that they behave in appropriate manners."
With the field being prepared for a Patriots game, more than a thousand local high school student athletes gathered in the Fidelity Investments Clubhouse at Gillette Stadium for the 17th Annual Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Sportsmanship Summit.
Hopkinton was among the individual athletes and schools recognized for their demonstration of integrity and excellence, winning the Division D Sportsmanship Award for their outstanding contributions to sportsmanship in high school athletics.
"It's a great honor for us," Williamson continued. "We work really hard to teach our kids sportsmanship and make sure that they behave in an appropriate manner."
Among the lessons Hopkinton stresses are attention to detail and a constant courteous manner. Prior to each athletic event, regardless of the stature, water is prepared for opposing teams and they are greeted by a student ambassador, who is responsible for meeting opposing teams, providing a tour of the school's athletic facilities, and acting as a liaison between the teams. Following the match, win or lose, handshakes and a competitive gratitude are always expected.
Accompanying that competitive nature is an unobservable quality: knowledge. And like respect, it was heavily discussed at the event.
Minus the homework and desks, the MIAA summit strives to teach young student athletes that in addition to dedication and determination, the principles of sportsmanship, respect, and discipline are keys to success in and away from athletics.
"This is a classroom," said President of the MIAA, Barry Haley. "Coming to Gillette Stadium is such a thrill for many of these kids. It's just one more opportunity to give positive messages to kids through athletics."
That message was reinforced from one of the sporting world's primary leaders: New England Patriots Chairman and CEO, Robert Kraft.
"The people I know who made the greatest successes in life have played sports and they've lost," Kraft said. "They learned more from those losses than they did from the wins, because they wanted to do everything they could do to make sure that happened as little as possible."
Kraft's Patriots, who are known for their teamwork and selflessness passed along a similar message to that demonstrated by his team.
"One thing I've learned is hanging out with good people, putting the team first and subjugating your ego for the good of the team," Kraft continued. "There's a winning experience that comes from that like none other and you build a great camaraderie."
That camaraderie surely began to build as being at Gillette Stadium also provided the Hillers with inspiration for athletic prowess.
"I see the kids really appreciating being in the atmosphere of obviously a great athletic program at a professional level," Williamson said. "We try to take some of those things and model them at the high school level to be able to bring back that same spirit of pride and enthusiasm."
Sitting inches away from your competition doesn't hurt either.