Column: "The Sports Trail": Lack of sportsmanship a danger to future of sports

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

by David McNeal

Lack of sportsmanship has become a huge problem in sports.

That was brought home hard last week when officials failed to control the game, and the crowd, during the Green Forest-Prairie Grove senior boys basketball game.

It was a close fought battle between two teams trying to stay out of the 1AAA cellar. It went down to the wire, with Prairie Grove making the last basket before the buzzer went off.

Tempers had flared during the game, from parents and fans, to coaches, to the players. It burst loose during the handshakes.

When the dust settled, Tiger coach Mike Hampton had been reassigned the next day, and Green Forest Principal Rick Waters had agreed to take over for the remaining weeks of the season.

Don't consider this an isolated incident.

All across America, fans have become a threat to the integrity of high school, and sometimes collegiate sports.

"I paid my two bucks. I can say, and act, like I want," fans think.

Well, the thinking is changing fast. The Arkansas Activities Association, the organization that administers high school sports in Arkansas, is fed up with the bad behavior of fans and has taken steps in recent years to deal with it.

Schools can be put on probation if too many reports come in about bad behavior from fans. They're considering adding something new ---- if fans are uncontrollable, the games will not be played with them present.

Yeah, two teams, no fans, no cheerleaders, no band. Just two teams, with coaches.

With parents across the land pretending to be experts in whatever game their children are playing in, derision and disrespect for coaches is rampant. Players hear it at home, and carry that disrespect with them to practices.

"That coach doesn't know what he's doing," is one of the more often heard themes of these negative nellies. What they usually mean is, he isn't playing my kid enough.

Coaches are too hard on kids, they're not hard enough, they don't play everyone, they play too many that aren't as good as "my" kid. It goes on and on.

Here's the hard facts. High school sports that involve competing against other schools, where a score is kept and a winner is announced, base player participation on performance. It isn't intramurals.

You know. Intramurals. Where everyone gets to play some, regardless of their ability level. As long as scores are kept, and records are kept, coaches will play those athletes that perform the best.

Young people learn what we teach them. They watch their parents and neighbors in the stands during whatever game they are playing. If these people show a lack of respect for those who choose to work with young people ---- coaches and officials ----can we expect them to act any differently?

Sportsmanship. Learn it soon, parents and fans, or your young person may have to learn it without your presence ---- from a coach!

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