Home » Best and Worst of Youth Sports: January to June 2011

Best and Worst of Youth Sports: January to June 2011

Donald C. CollinsThere were, as usual, plenty of bad behavior by parents and athletes in the first half of 2011.  Here are just some of the worst:

  1. Poor sportsmanship has a price.  Loyola High School of Los Angeles pole vaulter Evan Barr uttered a very loud profanity and snapped his pole in two after missing his final vault at the California High School State Track and Field Championships.  If Barr had made his final jump, he would have been the California pole vault champ. Instead, he clinched third place - at least until he reacted to his miss with the high volume profanity and the snapping of his pole.  Barr screamed so loudly that people in the stands could hear it.  The pole vault officials disqualified Barr for violating track’s sportsmanship rules.  Clearly, a bad moment for Barr, as he cost himself a medal.  But, to make matters worse, when the team scores were tallied, Loyola had lost to Long Beach Poly High School by three points: points Loyola would have earned if Barr hadn’t been disqualified.
  2. Good security gone bad. In February 2011, a melee broke out after a parent attacked a police officer at a North Carolina high school game.  It was a case of good security gone bad.  The security plan for the East Mecklenburg versus Butler High School basketball game had fans from the two teams seated on opposite sides of the gym: a very wise security measure.  One girl, a player on the girls’ basketball team, asked for permission to visit someone on the other side, which permission was granted.  When a police officer determined that the girl had sufficient time to visit, he asked her to return to her sideline.  The girl objected – and allegedly did not do so in a civil manner.  The girl’s father stood up for his daughter … by attacking the police officer!  The Carolina fight is typical of those that, all too often, occur in youth and high school sports.  People don’t necessarily have bad intentions.  They simply lack the capacity to express an objection in a civil manner, making it more likely that their objection will be expressed in an inappropriate, dangerous, or stupid manner.  Soon, a melee breaks out and, afterwards, the participants won't be able to tell you why such petty, minor disputes, led to such dangerous and outrageous results.  At the end of the day, there was mass chaos because a girl couldn't handle being told to go back to her seat!
  3. Push comes to shove.  An Indiana couple almost matched the North Carolina spectator.  Attending a high school basketball game in January, they became upset with the referees’ calls, got vocal, and then ignored a police officer who asked them to calm down.  Ignoring the officer wasn’t enough:  they compounded the matter by allegedly pushing the officer.
  4. Running down the line. In April, a Dyersburg, Tennessee high school student totally lost it after a heated baseball game.  The student has been charged with attempted murder.  Witnesses report that the student gunned his car into a crowd, running over a student from a rival high school.
  5. Going batty. In April, new baseball bat safety rules had the ironic effect of triggering a brawl in a Texas Little League game.  Apparently, one of the teams believed that the bats were illegally juiced, leading to a brawl between the two teams’ parents and coaches.
  6. Soccer's dirty little secret. It's the dirty little secret of youth and high school sports, but it's not a secret anymore - at least not in Southern California.  Youth and high school leagues all across the country are having a terrible time managing soccer.  In the spring of 2011, there were 8 assaults on officials in Southern California high school soccer, and an astounding 787 athletes were ejected athletes, along with 82 coaches.  The California Interscholastic Federation’s Southern Section ran its numbers and found that soccer has more ejections and incidents of inappropriate behavior than all its other sports combined. There are some soccer aficionados who contend that soccer lacks an intermediate step such as a technical foul in basketball.  Those people are right, but they miss the point.  This is not an issue that revolves around the technicality of whether a playing call is a foul or not.  This is an issue about attitudes. As sports administrators everywhere can attest, there's something wrong in the soccer community, and the normal procedures of ejecting and suspending players is not sufficient to deter the problem … at least, not in Southern California high school soccer.
  7. Toxic brew in the Big Apple.  The combination of unsafe schools, cold weather, a lack of transportation, and bad attitudes led to an ugly scene before a New York City high school basketball game in February.  The boys' basketball team at New York’s Boys and Girls High School showed up way too early for its scheduled game at Lincoln High, and, after being denied entry to the school, was forced to wait an hour in 30 degree cold.  When Jeff Wiggins, an assistant coach, was denied entry to the school lobby, witnesses say he got into a scuffle with a school security guard, and was ultimately handcuffed and issued a summons by the police.  The New York Department of Education says it will investigate. We already know what happened, here.  An inner city New York school doesn't want people running through its building unless they belong there.  Security guards at many inner city schools simply don’t let people into a school who don’t belong there, and the Boys and Girls team didn’t belong there during school hours.  The team from Boys and Girls High School showed up extremely early (we know they were extremely early if they waited outdoors for an hour, had time to have a scuffle with the guard, and still had time to warm up and play).  The guard wanted to keep them out of the school building until all classes were out of the gym. Everybody shares in the blame here.  The guard was literally correct, but may have better served everybody better by bringing in the Boys and Girls High School team out of the cold, and placing them in a controlled area - or a locker room – until all classes were out of the gym.  Coach Wiggins could have had the wherewithal to bypass the guard, and simply call the Lincoln main office. Alternatively, he could have called his own school and asked one of his administrators to call a Lincoln administrator.  Of course, this would be a non-issue if New York teams took buses to games.  When you take public transportation to games, you’re constantly trying to be early, but not too early.  It’s a delicate dance.

On the other hand ... 

As is my practice, for each act of violence or poor sportsmanship displayed,  I like to highlight a good deed, program or organization. Here are just three:

  1. In May, a Lincoln, California man went the extra mile – and more – to save the middle school athletic program at Glen Ellen Middle School.  Tony Overbay joined the Save Our Sports 4.2 mile fundraising run.  He then got extra pledges and ended up participating in a 24 hour fundraising run.  Tony’s four daughters have one hardworking parent.
  2. In San Jose, a mother and son called an injured opponent after a high school lacrosse game between Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton, CA, and St. Francis of San Jose.  They called because it was the right thing to do.  This is sportsmanship: the recognition of the value of one’s opponent, and the concern about his well-being even when you’re trying to beat him on the field of play.  Kudos to the Tinsley family of Sacred Heart Prep.  It should also be noted that there’s a right way to receive an act of grace.  Kudos to the athletic director of St. Francisco of San Jose.  He made sure that the Tinsleys knew how much the St. Francis community appreciated the call.
  3. Finally, the sportsmanship quote of the year comes from Michael Dunlap, a 5th grader at Evansdale Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia, and winner of the National Sportsmanship Day Essay Contest, Elementary Division in March.  Michael wrote, “Sportsmanship is needed on and off the field, at home, in the classroom and even at your job.”  Words of wisdom, indeed.

Posted July 19, 2011