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Students Learn Name of the Game: Sportsmanship

Times Staff Writer

Busy seventh-graders Aaron Cornell and Peter Vu were all tied up Friday.

Bound to each other at the ankles by a strong cloth, the two youths were attempting to play Siamese soccer.

“It’s kind of hard but fun,” said Aaron, 13, as he and his 12-year-old partner tried to coordinate their movements. In their eagerness to chase the ball, they became a jumble of legs and collapsed to the ground in a fit of giggles.

The two students from Park View Elementary School in Huntington Beach were among 250 seventh-graders from five Orange County junior high schools participating in “International Sports Day,” co-sponsored by the Center for Human Interdependence at Chapman College and the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles.

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Bringing the students together to play sports with such names as Poison from Zimbabwe or Gora Gora from India was a goal of Ken Tye, co-director of the center.

“One natural way of getting kids to understand other people is by their learning the games of other people,” Tye said. “This will help teach kids how to develop an awareness of international and global affairs. And on the local level, we made sure that different communities were involved.”

The former physical education teacher envisions “International Sports Day” spreading to other schools around Southern California. But he said Orange County is a good place to start.

“Orange County is a major gateway community for our nation,” Tye said. Attitudes toward immigrants and others who are settling here “are not always the best.” Campuses should foster cross-cultural understanding, Tye said.

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Program sponsors cited a recent incident in which a black woman was shoved to the ground and verbally abused at Cal State Fullerton. A picture of a figure resembling Al Jolson in black face advertised an upcoming student talent show at the same school. A task force has been formed to study interracial relations at the campus.

A press release also stated that the cross-cultural games were needed because “in Orange County, there have been several incidents in which (the spirit and rules) of sports have been abused,” including attacks on referees by athletes and their parents.

After approaching schools in December and four subsequent meetings, Tye said, International Sports Day was on its way.

Participating Friday were South Junior High School in Anaheim, Park View Elementary School in Huntington Beach, Portola Junior High School in Orange, Tuffree Junior High School in Placentia and Lathrop Intermediate School in Santa Ana. Each school was represented by 50 students, split evenly between boys and girls.

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Physical education teachers at the schools chose the students, who all had to have at least a 2.0 grade-point average to participate. But the students did not have to be outstanding athletes.

“I picked the kids I thought were going to have good manners and the ones I thought were not going to punch the other kids out,” said Nancy Landau somewhat with tongue in cheek. “The kids thought it was an honor to be chosen.”

During the closing ceremony, former Olympic track and field star Rafer Johnson handed out T-shirts and touted good sportsmanship.


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