Leadership and sportsmanship summit to promote 'Victory with Virtue'

LAKE HOLCOMBE — An event that stresses that winning is important in sports — but certainly isn’t everything — will take center stage in the Lake Holcombe school gymnasium Wednesday.

Entitled “Victory with Virtue,” a leadership and sportsmanship summit, student-athletes from 12 schools will be participating and listening to Mark Horbinski, founder of the WON80 sportsmanship movement. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Horbinski’s motto is that “winning should always be a target, but not the only one. A promotional flyer about the event states that the summit aims to be an engaging, interactive day designed to improve culture, cohesiveness and competitive purpose within high school teams, high schools in general, the school, the conferences they are members of and the overall athletic community.

According to Todd Senoraske, activities director and weight room coordinator for Lake Holcombe Schools, the idea for the summit arose from was a simple discussion.

“The idea came about through ordinary conversation and then made that a reality,” Senoraske told the Leader-Telegram. During my second year serving as AD, I ran into Craig Hillier (a nationally recognized speaker from Minnesota) at the WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association) Sportsmanship Summit.

“Shortly after, (Hillier) was at Lake Holcombe to speak to our middle school and high school with a message about the power of positive habits and attitude. Then, Craig and I thought it might be a good idea to host a multi-school school event to address common needs for improvement. We did. Two months later, seven schools around the area showed up. This was in 2022,” Senoraske said.

“That got the ball rolling. This time, we have Mark Horbinski (who Senoraske met at the WIAA Sportsmanship Summit). A member from our Student Athlete Leadership Club suggested we invite him and his message to Lake Holcombe at some point,” the AD noted.

Horbinski is listed on the promotional flyer for the event as a national speaker on the topic of sportsmanship, a high school teacher, coach and advisor for over 30 years and a former college football and track athlete at UW-Stout. Additionally, he is a 3D certified coach and NFHS Level 1 and Level 2 certified coach, a former WIAA licensed football and basketball official and member of the WIAA Sportsmanship Committee.

Senoraske is excited about the summit and told the Leader-Telegram that he even wouldn’t mind having it turn into a yearly thing.

“As far as it being an annual event, I think that would be great,” he said. “There has been discussion amongst our AD group and possibly rotate locations. It gives the kids a chance to see one another in a different light. Yeah, be extremely competitive when you play one another, but remember that we’re human and we still need to treat one another with respect and dignity.”

And that’s not the only underlying purpose of the event, Senoraske noted.

“The purpose of the event is to give schools an opportunity to develop plans within their athletic programs to take back to their school. Schools within have requested to address topics such as players’ body language/attitude during play, spectator etiquette, what it takes to be a leader, Team Captain vs Team Leader. The list goes on,” Senoraske said, adding that “While a lot of great things are happening in our schools, we need to address some of the behaviors we are observing/experiencing because it threatens opportunities for our youth. This can range from not having enough officials for games to coaching shortages.”

He noted that “Serving as an athletic director, you can really feel the heavy impact it has. This is important to me because I have been fortunate to have great experiences and coaches at the high school and collegiate level that educated me on such topics. Witnessing the burnout and reluctance to coach and/or officiate is concerning and disheartening for our youth. This is more than about sports, it’s about academics and character too. Great sportsmanship and great competitiveness is a goal here at Lake Holcombe.”

The event has been at maximum capacity for weeks, Senoraske said. All the schools attending are from the East or West Lakeland Conference. While there is a cost involved in attending the event, he noted that having 12 schools involved certainly helped to reduce the cost.

The following schools, Lake Holcombe, Shell Lake, Bruce, Winter, Siren, Webster, Birchwood, Flambeau, New Auburn, Prairie Farm, Clear Lake and Unity are attending and paid a fee to cover lunch and the speaker.

Senoraske said that based on feedback from the schools, it sounds like attendance will be around 230 participants, which includes three adults (coaches and/or ADs) and 15 student athletes from each school.