Officials are responsible for maintaining fair play on the field, but who's going to monitor behavior in the bleachers?
Athletes, fans, coaches make sports officiating a rough game
Sportsmanship and high school sports don't always go together. Emotions run high with young competitors and their fans and parents. That adds to the stress of officiating the games.
Carbon High Principal Bruce Bean and Athletic Director Ted Bianco sat down to talk about the pressures of sports these days. Both have spent time coaching and officiating over the years and have noticed a trend for at least six or seven years. The trend is not good and it is not limited to our area.
What they have picked up on is the difficulty to get people to become referees, officials and even coaches for youth sports. There are many factors that probably come into play for this. Time constraints and limited pay for these positions is certainly part of the problem. But both Bean and Bianco say that they are hearing more issues dealing with sportsmanship than ever before.
Carbon High has been working with the Utah High School Activities Association to increase sportsmanship at the high school. The school has put banners up in the gym, the teams read a sportsmanship pledge at the beginning of each game, they work to limit coaches ejections and they try to teach the fans how to "do rowdy" cheering right.
It is understood that loud and raucous crowds can help a home team find the emotions needed to carry home a win. What is being discouraged is the rooting against the other team. Taunting the opposition will not be tolerated. Last season several members of the JV squad from an opposing team were escorted out of the building because they were sitting and razing specific Dino players.
All-in-all, Bean noted that the Carbon students display pretty good sportsmanship. The school earned a UHSAA yellow star for their efforts last year and are planning to repeat that. One area that has him and Bianco troubled is the small percentage of parents that do not seem to be able to keep things in perspective. Both officials and coaches bear the brunt of a relatively small group of parents who don't seem to know when they have crossed time official Bill Bate said that most of the time he has enjoyed being an official, but there have been enough isolated incidents that sometimes make him question why he continues.
"We don't purposely go out to try and call for or against one team or another. We are human and make mistakes, but we are just trying to provide a service and we certainly don't make much money doing it," he added.
One of the reasons Bate thinks parents get so upset on some of the calls is that they may not understand the rules. "Many people know the NFL or NBA rules and think that is how it is. But each level from junior high to college has its own quirky little things and if you don't know that you may think the call is wrong," he said.
Despite the emphasis on sportsmanship, sometimes the coaches also let the emotions of the game push them into berating the officials. Bean and Bianco, as well as past administrations, keep an eye on things in during the contests and will, if necessary, pull a coach aside and get the control back.
"It doesn't help the team when the coaches, fans or the parents are getting on the officials during a game. Despite trying to stay fair, it might just make an official look a little harder at a player or team and then even more calls go against you," remarked Bean.
Coaches have their own battles with parents during the course of each season. Bianco said that 90 percent of the complaints about coaches boil down to playing time for their child.
"Most don't understand what happens in practice and why you make the decisions you do. Many times the athlete knows the reason they are sitting. The best coaches have good communication between themselves and their athletes," Bianco explained.
Bean added that the Carbon High coaches all have an open door policy for parent to come discuss things. He advises that parents shouldn't approach the assistants or even the coach on game night, but make an appointment for the day after when tempers and emotions have cooled a bit. Coaches around the state and the nation have been verbally abused and assaulted and Carbon has had its share of incidents over the years as well.
Both men felt like the entire country has lost some focus when it comes to sports. It is hard to fathom the multimillion dollar contracts being handed out like candy to sports figures. Kids are feeling like the only way to success is to focus more and more on one sport.
Camps, club ball and open gyms can eat up much free time and money between each season. It is an attitude that really hurts smaller schools especially hard. The pressure from parents seems higher in the boys programs than the girls because the stakes of getting into a Division I school or making it to the pros hangs in the air like an aroma of a cake being baked. Yet, for 99 percent of all athletes, that cake will never be theirs to taste.
Bean and Bianco feel it's time to put the fun back in athletics. The seriousness of playing sports is costing the loss of officials and coaches and kids that don't want to play anymore. For parents with kids involved with sports there are four things they want to remind them:
1. Pace yourself. If you are already getting out of control when your kids are playing little league remember there is still a lot of ball still to be played. Lighten up!
2. Be positive with your child. Some of the worse times in sports happen around the dinner table. At the end of the day, don't forget to tell them what they did well.
3. Keep it in perspective. If they have the ability to play and even get a little opportunity to do so count your blessings. Most of the 600 kids in the school don't even get the chance.
4. Let them have fun and enjoy playing.