10.03.2009

Sports Etiquette

I cut out a comic once that depicted a dad kneeling in front of his son dressed in a football uniform with hands on the boys shoulders. The dad instructed, "son, go out there and show the other dads how great I am."

Sometimes it seems like it is all about the parents. The kids go out and compete in a sport for what? To make their parents look good to the other adult spectators? Unfortunately, this comic is not far from the mark on a ball field.

Let's talk about sports-spectator etiquette. First, you may question my qualifications to speak on the matter. Here they are:

My Dad, Ken Schmidt, has been a very successful football coach since the day I was born. He coached at Skyline High in Salt Lake City and won 5 state champions and was inducted in The Football Hall of Fame--Utah Chapter. Next he coached at Ricks College and led the Vikings to their first two Bowl Games in school history. Then he went to BYU to coach with famed, Lavell Edwards. He coached the outside linebackers then was named Defensive Coordinator. He worked at BYU for 23 years until he was forced to retire when Gary Crowton took over the ranks.

If that is not enough, my husband played quarterback for BYU. He was Ty Detmer's back-up quarterback. My husband, Joe, has volunteer coached for five different Utah High School Football Teams and little league, flag football, Jr. Jazz basketball, Dixon Middle School's girls' basketball team, soccer, youth NFL teams, etc. He has been successful in all that he has coached and has had a lot of experience with good and bad spectators.  My sons and daughters have played on sports teams over the last 11 years.

Point being: I know about football, baseball, basketball, etc. I have sat through hundreds of games and know a little something about how fans should act.

Sports Etiquette Rules:

1. Let the coach do the coaching. Unless you are willing to put in 2 hours a day coaching a bunch of novice kids learning a game, then zip it in the stands. The coach doesn't need your coaching. Really!! You probably don't know as much as the coach does in the first place and second, you aren't the coach.

2. Let the kids do the playing. They are not on the field to make you look good, build your ego, or prove that your family has talent. Screaming and yelling at the kids is not okay. If you want to know the truth: The players are learning and trying. Let the coach correct errors and decide what position or in what order your child plays.

3. Cheer them on, don't beat them up! Don't scream at the players from the bleachers saying, "quarterback, 23 isn't the only number on the field" or "don't play to lose!" How does that help? The kids can hear you. Yelling is unacceptable! (Not to mention the quarterbacks mother is sitting just three rows down. Little do you know two of the offensive lineman are sick and not at the game and there are two inexperienced and much smaller lineman filling in. The quarterback is having an asthma attack and had a concusion last week.) Unless you walk in another man's moccasins for a mile, you can not fully understand the situation. Why add insult to injury?

4. Be an appreciative fan and parent. Unless you have clocked the hours volunteering to teach a bunch of rusty kids how to play a sport, you can not know the time and sacrifice involved. How could you? Be appreciative of the coach and his family and his sacrifice of energy and time. Heck! He could be out on the golf coarse or spending time with his family. Say thank you. Help where you can. Be a team manager. Make some calls for the coach. Order some uniforms. Bring a water jug and cups, fill it, and share it with the players.

5. Don't set your expectations too high. Don't fool yourself into thinking that because you paid your 25.00 participation fee means your entitled to anything besides the opportunity to see your child learn and play. It's not the world series and your not entitled to an NFL/NBA coach. In our experience with sports, there are two kinds of parents, the supportive and appreciative type and the arrogant, rude, and entitled type.

6. Remember: It's only a game. My Dad has come home from some big loses with some big teams and said, "it's only a game." We fans might be all riled up, feeling jipped by the refs, unfairly treated and cheated by the opposing team's players. But do you know what type of attitude the players and coaches go home with? Closure! Yes. Closure. Players fought hard. Coaches "coached" their hearts out. It's just time to realize the other team was (in my Dad's vernacula), "more physical." They had bigger, faster, and more talented players and beat us good. "What can you do?" It's the way it is. Better teams win.

The movie, "Fever Pitch" has a scene that depicts this sentiment nicely. Some ardent fans are in the doldrums because their be-loved team, the New York Yankees lost. The camera pans to three NY Yankee fans sitting at a bar in a restaurant bemoaning the loss, heads hung down, and in real downer moods. They look across the room to spot four N.Y. Yankee players sitting at a table laughing, talking, enjoying their food. They are befuddled by the scene before their eyes. Then one of the men at the bar had an epiphany: "They played hard. They deserve to enjoy the evening. So why are we moping? They don't owe us anything." True so true.

7. Have fun. Sports are meant to be fun. Fun for the parents, fun for the players, fun for the coaches. Yes, players are learning and growing, but they inevitably play a sport, because it's fun. Don't take the fun out of it for you, your child, or the coach with bad, sport-spectator etiquette. Go out there and cheer them on. Be an athletic supporter!

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