Parents and Sports

From the Sidelines

As we start into the spring sport season in a new year, I would like to make a few suggestions as to how High School Sports can solve some of the issues they have. I am talking about getting officials, low attendance at events, less student participation, and coaching turnover.

In my 68 years on earth, I have spent the better part of it involved in playing, officiating, and writing about High School sports. I have seen and heard it all and what I have seen and heard in the last 10 years is not good.  High School sports should be an enjoyable and worthwhile learning experience for student/athletes.

I understand that in the internet age people say things about other people that they would never say to their face.  Now, they seem to be emboldened enough to say things to their face, and it isn’t “Have a nice day”.

This attitude is ruining High School sports. I have heard things yelled at officials, coaches, and athletes that have no place in High School sports, or anywhere. My God, these are people trying to build better people through sports, and the stuff they put up with, mostly irate, abusive parents, is ridiculous!

It is my understanding that at one of our county schools this year during a basketball game 7, yes 7 parents or backers of the team were thrown out of the game by the officials!  What the heck is wrong with you people?

How do you think your kids felt? What kind of an example does that set for students, and what do you think officials and visiting coaches think about your school?  I bet you people still wonder why it is harder to get officials and coaches that want to be at your school anymore?

If you think for a minute that the better officials and coaches want to come to your school after they hear about this (and trust me officials talk…a lot!), you are dead wrong!

This is not only an embarrassment for the school, but displays a lack of leadership by school boards and administrators.  Allowing abusive parents and rowdy, abusive students to act this way at school events only detracts from the good schools are doing.  This is why you see some people not supporting school levies.  They don’t like what they see, and believe me, sports are sometimes the publics only look at the school system.

Don’t get me wrong, there are far more good parents than bad ones…..a lot more.  BUT, and this is a big BUT, almost nobody remembers the good parents, they sure do see the idiots though!

I was fortunate for 27 years of officiating I never had to ask to have parents removed from a game.  At most games we had to walk through the crowds afterwards, and I never felt threatened.  At only two games did we need assistance getting off a field, but those are different stories…nothing we did, just real nasty rivalries.  Times have certainly changed, but this new attitude of anything goes towards those involved with school sports has got to stop!

I sincerely believe if we can fix the “parent” problem we can mostly solve the officials and coaching problem. I also know that it is going to take strong administrations and athletic directors with some intestinal fortitude to start policing their contests and not allowing this behavior to continue.

Schools are supposed to be a learning place, and it seems in today’s climate, schools are asked to do more than they should. This is just a fact. If kids do not learn at home, or are learning all the wrong things, then by default, even though it is not what they are supposed to do, schools need to step up.

One of the things they can start doing is not allowing parents to act like fools at their contests. It is unpleasant to have to discipline people at your contests, but having a defined structure of behavior, and what you expect from parents and students, is a necessity.

I hate to say it but it just takes some guts to enforce the behavior that you want for your school. I officiated at quite a few schools that always had things under control, and the athletic director or law enforcement usually did this by just walking around and watching the crowd.

That presence is usually enough. If the A.D. by him or herself wasn’t enough, having some law enforcement show up with the AD always seemed to work!  Those schools were always great to work because this attitude of discipline enforced by the school administration and by the coach carried over to the athletes!

Parents are a huge part of High School sports. They provide the athletes, the support, the fundraisers, and the following that makes schools what they are.  Proud parents that enforce self-discipline on themselves only enhance the quality of the school and the education it is providing.

Parents that show no self-discipline and think they know more than everyone on the field or court, and act like fools on steroids, shows the quality of the school they represent, if allowed to continue.

The choice is up to you, the administration and the parents. How do you want your school represented, as a place of pride or a school that is made fun of?…It is up to you.  Fix it or not….your call.  That’s the way I see it, from the sidelines.

Commissioner Mike Stegall

Mike Stegall / Correspondent

Mike Stegall is a GHS alum and played on the Green Wave's only undefeated football team. Served 27 years as an OHSAA football official and currently serves as a Darke County Commissioner

Previous Tri-County Board honors Becker for 35 years

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