Fifth-grader Alexis Abraham, who twirls the baton with a group in Perrysburg, already knows that sports are not all fun and games.
“I believe that kids' sports have gotten to be too competitive,” she wrote in an essay.
“Too many times I've heard parents yelling at their child when they didn't do so hot. Where's the fun in that?”
Alexis is a student at Pemberville Elementary School in the Eastwood local school district. She was one of three Wood County students who won an essay contest sponsored by the county prosecutor's office.
The contest has been held annually since 1999. This year's essay question asked how violence and sports are related and what schools, parents, coaches, and students could do to discourage violence.
About 220 students from grades four through 12 entered the contest, said Valerie Linkey, executive assistant at the prosecutor's office.
“The answers were above and beyond what we were looking for,” she said. “A lot of them drew from real-life experience.”
A panel of nine judges, including law enforcement officers and a local judge, chose winners in three age categories.
Otsego High School students in Jennifer McCord's English classes have dominated the 10th to 12th-grade category for all four years of the contest. Mrs. McCord assigns the essays to her classes as a graded assignment and submits the papers to the competition.
“I think violence is an important issue. Even though Otsego has very little violence, it's all around us,” Mrs. McCord said. “Students think most carefully about an issue when they have to write.”
Lacy Long, a senior, is the latest winning writer from Otsego.
Her essay recognized that many professional sports have a violent spectator culture. She said television sports programs make the problem worse by glamorizing fights.
Lacy wrote that coaches and parents need to emphasize working hard to improve rather than beating the opposition.
“It's really important for parents to be good role models,” she said.
Whitney Lane, a seventh grader from Bowling Green Junior High School who won the middle school category, also wrote about how coaches should treat their athletes.
As a basketball player for her school, Whitney has witnessed the influence of coaches.
“Coaches can tell the players to do their best and have fun,” she wrote. “Positive statements can promote positive attitudes.”
The three winners received a variety of prizes, including watches from a local jewelry store, restaurant gift certificates, and free movie passes.
They were honored with an awards ceremony last month at the courthouse in Bowling Green. After they received the awards, they got a tour of the building.
“It was really interesting,” Lacy said. “I never knew Bowling Green had an extravagant place like that.”
The contest is part of the Youth Violence Prevention program run by the prosecutor's office. The program runs mediation and education sessions in area schools.
Staff from the prosecutor's office encourage teachers to tell their students about the essay competition.
Alexis earned extra credit from her teacher for entering the contest, and her surprise win brought even more benefits.
“I get to see a movie and we don't have to pay for the tickets,” she said.