Since signing on at Seabury Academy a decade ago, Brian Clyne has made no secret of his quest to bring a higher level of sportsmanship to high school athletics.
He has drilled it into the Seabury coaches, starting from the time they were prospective employees and continuing after they officially came aboard. He has drilled it into the Seahawks players, meeting with each team to don the school colors at the beginning of their seasons.
Still, he hasn't seen the message getting through across the competitive sports landscape.
"I came to the realization that somebody has to step up and be a role model here," said Clyne, Seabury's athletic director for all 10 years of the school's existence. "It's not happening in the pro ranks. It's not happening in the college ranks. It's not happening with a lot of the parents.
"I'm hoping the kids will step up."
A group of 21 current Seabury athletes has pledged to do just that.
During tonight's home volleyball triangular against Oskaloosa and Marais des Cygnes Valley, Clyne and Seabury will recognize the school's first nominees for membership in the Scholastic Sportsmanship Foundation, a nonprofit organization created in the wake of a notorious brawl that broke out between the Clemson and South Carolina football teams during their 2004 meeting.
Created by Allen Powell - a former high school coach and principal in South Carolina - and former Clemson offensive coordinator Mike O'Cain, the organization is committed to honor and integrity in interscholastic athletics and is using college scholarships to help make it happen.
Hundreds of high schools - mostly in the South, where the program originated - already have signed on. This fall, Seabury became the first Kansas school to do so.
In order to become a "Champion by Choice," nominees must have a 2.5 grade-point average, play at least one season of a varsity sport and complete an application that includes a code of honor that must be signed. There is also a parental code of conduct, for which a signature is optional.
"I got in (the athletes') faces and said, 'Please, please, please do not sign on the dotted line if you don't believe in it the way I do,'" Clyne said. "In many ways, it is a leap of faith."
It's also a leap of finances. Seabury already works under a limited athletics budget, but that didn't stop Clyne from pledging to find a way to pay for the $30 membership fee that's also required for acceptance into the foundation.
To that end, 100 percent of the gate receipts from tonight's volleyball event will go toward paying for the memberships.
"I decided if we're going to stand behind this program, we're not going to have parents pay for it," Clyne said.
Once the money arrives at the foundation's South Carolina headquarters, the Seabury members will receive certificates and T-shirts, and those who are high school seniors will be eligible for scholarships at the end of the year.
Between now and then, it's a matter of practicing what the foundation, and Clyne, preach.
"I do," said Clyne when asked if he believes his students are up to the challenge, "and the reason is not because they've signed this, but I've gathered this group of people together in a room.
"The look in their eyes when I talk to these 21 kids tells me they can and will."