Parents ruining youth athletics

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 1, 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 were officiatingthe varsity boys basketball game last Friday night. Ackermansuffered cuts, scratches and bruises to his face. Both refereeswere given tetanus shots at the hospital. Rabies shots would havebeen appropriate.

High school games often become intensely competitive.

Some parents are reliving their youthful fantasies through thesporting activities of their child. They feel each foul and theyrejoice with each point their son/daughter scores. After the gamethey are emotionally drained.

Two weeks ago this column reviewed the confrontation between theBrookhaven boys basketball team and a group of Monticello residentsoutside the Lawrence County High School gymnasium. It seemed like asimple matter of leaving the gym and boarding the bus for the shortride back to Lincoln County. The group refused to let the BHS teamon the bus.

We pontificated on the importance of adequate security at highschool sporting events. Naturally, some LCHS people took exceptionto the column. They have a solid athletic program, stressingsportsmanship on and off the field.

The bottom line was security. Was it adequate?

For the record, there was no security personnel present at theBA-Bowling Green game. I wonder if one security person could havehalted the melee. If the deputy or constable had pulled out hispistol and fired into the ceiling, he might have had 10 peopleshooting back.

Brookhaven is not immune from altercations. During the recentBHS 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 final nightof the tournament. Some McComb fans seated behind the press tablewere constantly bellowing during the BHS-McComb boys game. Theydidn’t have megaphones but it sure sounded like stereo. Obviously,they loved the Tigers.

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

Coaches can become abusive, too. That behavior often incites thefans 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 love theirjob. “We do it because we love the game and we love the kids. Wesure don’t do it for the money.”

For sure, referees must absorb verbal abuse. Fans and coachesoften second and third-guess their decisions. That’s all part ofthe game.

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

Let’s try our best to enjoy our freedom and enjoy the games.