Parents ruining youth athletics

Published 6:00 am Thursday, January 31, 2002

“Tom, you really need to write a column about violence at highschool sporting events. Parents are ruining it.”

Yes, the parents could use a few pointers on how to behave atyouth sporting events. It starts at the 5-year-old level whenyoungsters begin taking swings at a stationary baseball in theT-Ball League. Be it peewee basketball, soccer or football, someparents often take the activity too seriously.

In an attempt to soften the intensity, some youth leagues havediscontinued keeping score. Hey, that’s not a bad idea.

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Human beings are born with a competitive nature. It’s also knownas jealousy. Remember the first sibling rivalry?

Cain killed Able and the first blood of mankind soaked theearth. Since then, such emotions as anger, hate and revenge havebeen going strong.

Recall Sept. 11 for a moment. Everyone from President Bush tothe local recluse living in Bogue Chitto was stunned by the tragedyand the hatred which motivated the act. Do people really hate thatmuch?

Referee Bill Brantley of Monticello has six staples in his skulland a concussion to show for the latest violent incident at a highschool game. It took place in rural Louisiana, in Bowling GreenAcademy’s gym, located in Franklinton, La.

Brookhaven Academy boys basketball coach Dale Watts is an unsunghero. Brantley received from 10-20 kicks and punches to his bodybefore Watts and another man could pull the attackers away.

God blessed Brantley with a hard head. Otherwise, his obituarywould have appeared in The Daily Leader last Sunday.

Brantley and Charlie Ackerman of Franklinton wereofficiating the varsity boys basketball game last Friday night.Ackerman suffered cuts, scratches and bruises to his face. Bothreferees were given tetanus shots at the hospital. Rabies shotswould have been appropriate.

High school games often become intenselycompetitive.

Some parents are reliving their youthful fantasies throughthe sporting activities of their child. They feel each foul andthey rejoice with each point their son/daughter scores. After thegame they are emotionally drained.

Two weeks ago this column reviewed the confrontation betweenthe Brookhaven boys basketball team and a group of Monticelloresidents outside the Lawrence County High School gymnasium. Itseemed like a simple matter of leaving the gym and boarding the busfor the short ride back to Lincoln County. The group refused to letthe BHS team on the bus.

We pontificated on the importance of adequate security athigh school sporting events. Naturally, some LCHS people tookexception to the column. They have a solid athletic program,stressing sportsmanship on and off the field.

The bottom line was security. Was it adequate?

For the record, there was no security personnel present atthe BA-Bowling Green game. I wonder if one security person couldhave halted the melee. If the deputy or constable had pulled outhis pistol and fired into the ceiling, he might have had 10 peopleshooting back.

Brookhaven is not immune from altercations. During therecent BHS tournament, two females received a police escort out ofSinclair Gymnasium for fighting. Another loud and abusive fan fromHazlehurst was escorted outside for creating a disturbance on thesame Friday night. Must have been a full moon.

Yours truly nearly lost his sense of hearing on the finalnight of the tournament. Some McComb fans seated behind the presstable were constantly bellowing during the BHS-McComb boys game.They didn’t have megaphones but it sure sounded like stereo.Obviously, they loved the Tigers.

For sure, there’s nothing wrong with exercising the lungs ata game. That’s worth the price of admission. It’s when the cheeringbecomes derisive that problems arise.

Coaches can become abusive, too. That behavior often incitesthe fans to a fevered pitch.

At Tuesday night’s soccer game between Brookhaven and WestJones, Coach Jerel Wade of West Jones roared at the referees with aconstant stream of criticism. Naturally, his players joined in theverbal abuse. Ejecting Wade from the game would have been anappropriate act.

Like Brantley said in an earlier story, referees must lovetheir job. “We do it because we love the game and we love the kids.We sure don’t do it for the money.”

For sure, referees must absorb verbal abuse. Fans andcoaches often second and third-guess their decisions. That’s allpart of the game.

There’s no place for violence at the games. Let our USAarmed forces take care of that matter when they battle theterrorists.

Let’s try our best to enjoy our freedom and enjoy thegames.