Patterning Core Values

We hosted the Class B Girls’ State Basketball Tournament last weekend – always a good experience.  As a born and raised, tiny town, Class B kid, I enjoy getting back into the “B” atmosphere when I can.  While the folks associated with our two “A” schools in town certainly care about their schools and their teams, it’s difficult to compare to the passion of North Dakota Class B fandom.  Judging by crowd size in a couple sections, there were some small towns in ND that were pretty close to empty last weekend.

Along with that passion for the town’s athletic programs comes an extremely high level of “concern” about results.  At last weekend’s tournament, my staff and I had front row seats to a pair of fans from one of the schools who spent three straight days yelling a constant barrage of negative comments, and I’m not using hyperbole.  Those two had a negative comment for someone – refs, kids, coaches – on, literally, almost every single possession of their team’s entire tournament.  While it was obvious that this school’s fan base has a severe culture problem – there were many fans in this section yelling criticism throughout the tourney, often so casually that it was apparent how accustomed these fans were to this behavior – these two fans still stood out among the crowd.  It was bad enough on Thursday and Friday, that on Saturday, I noted two things that don’t normally happen when we host tourneys.  (1) People from other areas of the arena came over to where my staff was for the sole purpose of listening to these fans because they’d heard about how bad it was, and (2) my staff was making predictions about how long into Saturday’s game we’d get before one of them yelled something at someone (they made it 25 seconds into the game).

I had two initial thoughts during and immediately after the weekend.
1.  Assuming those two were parents, what a terrible conflict they were putting the kids into.  If a basketball team is doing what they are supposed to be doing, the players on the floor should be talking to each other during the game.  The coach on the sideline was often instructing players during play.  AND, these poor kids had the two fans screaming another set of instructions at them.  That’s three sets of instructions that these kids were trying to process at once.  Beyond that, one thing that I’ve found to be true is that parents who yell at their kids during the game are usually the same parents who chirp their kids on the ride home, so think about the horrible conflict these two parents’ kids are being put into during the state tournament.  If they listen to their parents, they risk being pulled from the game for not doing what the coach is telling them.  If they listen to their coach, they’re going to have to deal with criticism from their parents after the game.  That’s an awful, awful conflict for a 13-18 year old to have as a result of playing a game.
2.  Is there any way that these two adults were having fun?  I just can’t fathom a scenario where, as an adult, you show up to an event, yell and criticize for an entire game, then leave the arena thinking about how much fun you just had watching kids play.  Think about it – whether these two are parents or just community fans, they spent money on gas, hotel, meals, and tickets to come to Grand Forks to yell at other people and complain for three days.  Personally, I wouldn’t have any fun in that scenario.

After my initial two thoughts, I came across a wonderful coincidence of timing in our parent book study.  (Check it out if you haven’t already!)  We just posted discussion questions for Chapter 3 of John O’Sullivan’s book; chapter 3 talks about setting a parental vision for who/what you want your kid to be in the future.  The premise isn’t such goals as “I want my kid to be a state champ” or anything like that; it’s a future vision of the kid as an adult – a parent, a spouse, an employee, etc.  The exercises in the book walk parents through defining their families’ core values then picturing their future children through those values.  Of course, that vision leads to adjectives such as loyal, confident, courageous, hard working, dependable, etc.  O’Sullivan then asks the simplest question that could be asked:

“Are my actions today leading to this future person, or leading to something entirely different?”

Wow.  So simple, yet so effective.

Applied to these two fans/parents specifically – assuming that they want their kids to grow up to have such qualities as referenced above, how does screaming “FOUL!”, “HACK!”, “GET HER OFF!”, “CALL IT BOTH WAYS!”, “MOVE AROUND, GIRLS!”, “CHANGE YOUR PRESS BREAKER!”, SHE’S PUSHING!”, “DRIBBLE!”, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?”, etc. etc. etc. help their kids to learn those characteristics?  I’m certain these parents thought they were helping by trying to sway the officiating, change the coaches’ mind, get kids to go where they thought the kids should be, etc., but does that help form the kid into that future vision?  Couldn’t I argue that even IF the officiating was horribly one-sided against this team (it wasn’t), wouldn’t dealing with that help teach the kid persistence and perseverance?  Aren’t those good qualities for an adult to have?

Most parents/people will openly claim that they want their kids to learn all of those noble personal characteristics through participation in sports, but do they then live and display those values for their kids during competition?  Think about some of the negative behaviors associated with youth sports:
– What quality do kids learn when you yell at officials or coaches from the stands?
– What quality do kids learn when you’re yelling at the kids from the stands?
– What quality do kids learn when you criticize coaches or teammates in front of your kids at home or in the car?
– What quality do kids learn when you criticize the other team’s coaches or kids in front of your kids?
– Specific to a problem with some sports in Grand Forks – what quality do kids learn when you can’t seem to watch them play without drinking before and/or during their games?

Such a simple question – are my actions today leading to [what I want my kid to be]?  It makes so much sense in theory, yet the passion around competitive athletics causes us to so quickly lose our core values.  Remembering that this experience should belong to the kids, we can all do our part to be productive fans, too.  (Something I’ve speculated about before – found here.)  Keep things in perspective, and make sure your actions are matching that vision for your kid in the future!

10 Responses

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Folks like this aren’t always asked to leave hockey, either…or soccer, or baseball, or football, etc.
      I did actually have one of the officials who worked the Saturday game for this particular game tell me that during halftime they discussed removing some fans but decided against it because it was the Saturday game of the state tournament. Pretty noble move by the officiating crew, I thought, to continue putting up with that.

  1. Wayne Trudeau

    We need to call these people out when it happens. If they are yelling at the kids at games what bullying is going on at home. Parents then convince their kids that they are not the problem. If it happens that they are showing disgust at their kids, other kids or coaches it continues at home. When I coached I told parents not to discuss the games with the kids unless the kids want to talk about it. I also would talk to parents who tried to coach their kids from the sidelines. Yelling at officials has happened since the beginning of time. I think coaches should not be allowed to questions the officials at all. This would give a level playing field for all coaches. That would put a stop to it. I was one of the worst coaches around at yelling at officials. If coaches do it fans will. Game officials, I mean AD’s, and others running the games need to lead the people out.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Agreed – lots of good stuff here.
      I think we do a decent job of addressing our fan’s behavior in Grand Forks – certainly not all of it, but I think we’re able to deal with some of our issues. Tournaments are a tougher venue to regulate. Speaking for myself this past weekend, none of the fans in the building were from my district, so each community’s culture dictates the behavior of fans. As long as fans aren’t threatening people, most tourney managers will leave fan management to the administration of that particular school.
      I like your comment about coaches not talking to officials. Whenever I have an official contact me the morning after a game to comment on one of my coaches chirping, I always ask the official if he/she issued a warning or assessed a technical (or whatever the equivalent is for that sport).
      Thanks for the comments!

      1. Chris M

        I completely agree with this article. Growing up in a class B school and getting the chance to go to many state tournaments as my dad was an AD and administrator for the school. That kind of behavior was always unacceptable, and in fact when our girls team won state in ’96 we always tried to have the best sportsmanship, because getting the sportsmanship award was a very big source of pride for the community. It is sad to see parents/adults act in a way that would reflect so poorly on their community. I appreciate this article, and hope people might think twice when making such negative comments in front of these kids.

  2. Fan

    If this was the case…you sitting and listening for all 3 days …did you or you staff report it to Alerus Security or to the NDHSAA? It could have been resolved. But for the sake of a story you would rather sit and listen, laugh and bet as to when everything would start. You are as much a problem as they were.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      As a tourney manager, there was nothing to report or fix. Nobody in the section was complaining about their behavior, the officials hadn’t asked us to warn or remove the fans, and nobody was being threatened. It’s not our job as tourney management to tell fans how to act; that’s a school-based cultural decision. The fact that, as an AD, I don’t want my community’s fans acting like that doesn’t give me permission, as a tourney manager, to force my cultural beliefs on other schools/communities. I was expecting the officials to ask us to address it, and we were prepared for that possibility; however, the officials chose to leave it alone because it was the state tournament.
      I used last weekend as a catalyst for a blog post to remind my blog readers of fan expectations and to bring awareness to fans/parents of the importance of their behavior.

  3. Bumblebee32

    Bout time someone writes a comment on the fans who have been doing that all year long. I come from this school and trust me it gets to be a little annoying at times listening to this and I’m not even an adult. Just let your kids play basketball without yelling at the every time up and down the court. Just glad someone finally spoke up about this. Thank you.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      It’s tough to advocate for change as a student, but your voice, your comments, and your opinion expressed to school administration will go much farther than mine will to create change. Gather up a group of like-minded students, and let your AD and coaches know that fan behavior is creating a negative effect on your experience in athletics. Thanks for the read and comment!

Leave a Reply