(ISN) – Saturday afternoon, in front of about 60 people, a game featuring 10 year old House League basketball players turned ugly. After a hard foul at game’s end, parents came onto the court, and threats of bodily harm were made. Two kids were crying while a dozen adults were milling about, pointing fingers and shouting at one another. The refs didn’t know what do do. It was sad to see, and I was embarrassed for the kids. Since when did so many adults involved in sport become such angry assholes?
I understand that many sports parents live vicariously through their children. I also understand the feeling a parent gets when they see their kid take a smack in the head, or get tripped by an opponent. During this game, it appeared that the father of one of the kids on the Green Team was provoking a player on the White Team. When his kid ended up fouling the other kid on a last second shot attempt, the two youngsters went down in a heap and both began crying. Instantly, the father of the kid who was fouled, a big, menacing looking man in a black cap, went right after the other father who was the provocateur. Remember, these were 10 year old House League players, but to the parents, it was life and death. Luckily, no punches were thrown on the court, but the argument did escalate out in the hallway after the game, and for all I know, continued into the parking lot. I sure hope those two teams don’t meet again in the playoffs, or there will be some bad blood.
The incident bothered me for the rest of the day as I recalled similar moments in minor sports whereby parents and coaches behaved terribly and likely made the kids feel like crap. I know it happens. I know people can snap. But we need to put things in perspective. This is not elite level competition. Even if it was, there’s no excuse for an adult to act that way. The games should be decided by the players, and not by the parents and coaches. In fact, a lot of youth leagues have a code of conduct which all parents and players must sign. If they are in violation, consequences are paid. The player and/or the parent will be suspended. Some leagues even refuse to allow parents to watch their kids’ games if they are especially disruptive. In some cases, parents have been banned from watching the games in person because they can’t control their anger. And don’t kid yourself, it’s all about being angry. The problem has to do with angry adults who need to understand that their behavior is toxic and will not be tolerated.
And then, as if a message was being sent at just the right time, I happened upon a new TV show called “Coaching Bad”. The show debuted Sunday night on Spike TV and features former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Anger Management specialist Dr. Christian Conte. Between them, they counsel 9 coaches, who live together in a house and tell their stories of being fired from coaching jobs in high school, college, professional and even Little League teams. Clearly, these coaches are angry, and it shows in their methods. They yell a lot. They drop f-bombs every other word. They physically intimidate their players and threaten them. One man named Kash Beauchamp, was a minor league baseball manager with the Wichita Wingnuts whose outburst was so outrageous it got him fired from his job. He’s also, sadly, a YouTube sensation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsSFz-QVbDs
But wait, there’s more. A man who coaches his son’s Pop Warner football team is about to break up his family because of his agressive methods. Nobody wants to be around him. A young lady was fired as a high school volleyball coach because she screamed and cussed at her players all the time and nobody wanted to play for her. Then there was the former NFL player who hates everybody and everything and is just looking to start a fight. And it wasn’t just the coaches. A hockey referee took exception to a player disrespecting him and beat the stuffing out of him. These people have serious issues, and since most of us have had experiences with these types of people, it’s a real wake-up call. Who exactly is coaching our kids? What type of methods do they employ? Are they always angry, pointing the finger of blame, ready to fight at the drop of a hat? A more important question may be: Are they successful coaches? We tend to overlook certain coaching methods if the end result is a victory. Punch Imlach won four Stanley Cups for the Maple Leafs in the 1960s, but the players hated him because he abused them, ridiculed them and treated them like dogs, refusing to allow them to drink water during punishing practice sessions. Vince Lombardi was universally loved, but only AFTER his Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls. As Jerry Kramer once wrote: “Lombardi treated us all the same….like dogs”. That may have been acceptable back in the old days, but not anymore. There’s too many angry people in sports, and they’re ruining the sheer joy of it for the rest of us.