Archive for Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wristen: Adults should be mindful of behavior in the stands

February 9, 2011

Between the athletes on the court and the spirited students packing the stands, a pretty clear picture can be painted about a high school’s identity.

How hard the players compete and the sportsmanship they display tell us a lot about the character of a program and the expectations of the school. The same goes for the amount of pride displayed by the student section.

But what about the adults in the stands? What does their behavior tell us?

I’ve seen plenty of questionable behavior at sporting events during a decade of working as a sportswriter, and during that time the most abhorrent of words and actions haven’t come from overly enthusiastic students. Instead, they’ve come from adults.

There was the Santa Fe Trail High School supporter who threw a 20-ounce bottle of Diet Pepsi from the stands at a basketball official, and there were the numerous adults in the Ottawa High School fan section berating basketball officials with a blizzard of F-bombs during a state tournament game — regardless of the fact that the other team, Basehor-Linwood, was shooting 67 percent from the field. Those are just two of numerous examples through the years.

When I see and hear such things at sporting events, it makes me sad for the kids they’re supposedly there to support. Clearly some adults don’t understand that their actions help create either a positive or negative image for both their kids and their kids’ school.

In most cases, one or two instances of disgusting behavior overshadow years’ worth of positive impressions.

Sadly, I witnessed another such example on Friday night while covering Bonner Springs’ home basketball games against Bishop Ward.

The Bonner Springs boys took control early and led comfortably throughout the game. The second half was pretty chippy, however, and players from both squads could be seen baiting each other into extra contact and fouls.

At one point, Ward coach Todd Magwire — already out of timeouts — asked BSHS coach Andy Price to call a timeout so Magwire could lecture his team about keeping its emotions under control. It was the right thing to do, and it said a lot about the character Magwire wants from his players.

Later, after a hard foul by a Bonner Springs player, an adult sitting about six rows behind the Bishop Ward bench (and two rows behind me) shouted to one of the Cyclones not to shake a Bonner Springs player’s hand. Shocked, I gave him an inquisitive glance over my shoulder.

“Yeah, that’s right,” he said to me with a smug look on his face. “You never shake someone’s hand if they cheap-shot you.”

Whether it was a cheap shot or just a hard foul probably depends on which team you were rooting for, but regardless I simply replied “Hmm … “ and turned back to the game.

It seemed to be in such contrast to how Jesus would’ve handled the situation, or at least that’s what I learned while attending Catholic elementary and high schools.

But the fact that Bishop Ward is a Catholic school isn’t what bothered me by his comments. Instead, it was the fact that an adult was encouraging poor sportsmanship at a high school sporting event, and he also was portraying Bishop Ward in a very negative light that wasn’t asked for by the players on the court or the students in the stands (who, by the way, were very well behaved).

Postseason competition is only a few weeks away, so my hope is that this column will make all adults keep their actions in mind as their teams head into heated competition. Sure, there’s a lot at stake in the postseason and emotions will be high, but please keep in mind that your words and actions leave an impression about the school and the kids you are supporting. Please make it a positive one.

The kids who are competing — whether they’re swimmers, wrestlers, basketball players or bowlers — deserve to create their own identity.

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