Basketball season is kicking off pretty quickly. The final days of football and volleyball season are fast approaching. Tryouts for basketball are soon to begin. I love attending student sporting events. I love to support the kids and cheer them on. Last year I was honoured to work with a team as their motivational support person or bench cheerleader. I am fine with both terms. Lately I have been reminded of a few points that trouble me about sports in school and I just want to put this out into the universe prior to the next few months in the hopes that perhaps, by some miracle, we can get things right because we have not in the past.
Last year we talked about "we are students first" as a way to address the topic of academics and athletic involvement. We would ask kids how they were doing in their classes and stressed the need to show up for them but we didn't do much past that. I think to a degree not being sure how far we push the importance. This year a coworker who coaches a different grade approach me with an idea of a grade/effort minimum. The idea being that we would set a baseline of 70% but would consider effort when that 70% was not reached for students to be eligible to play that week. I have to admit I love it. I think to have an expectation for our students to achieve is important. I also think that some students, working their hardest, can find that 70% hard to achieve, I would have struggled to do that in math. I floated it by my students and to be honest a few were very upset. They are capable but would rather visit and play on their phones. A few were worried but after assurance that their effort would get them there they were ok. One student exclaimed, "Guys we are students first" it is sinking in. It was a little disheartening to hear from different adults they thought it was a bad idea to expect this of our kids. We are going to agree to disagree.
Later this month our school is hosting a Province wide tournament for Volleyball. I am missing NCTE for it (I will survive) and have been appointed as the organizer for security. I have a job breakdown but mostly it was the create and emergency escape map with locations of important spots marked and to set up barricades and signage. An additional point is to remove any unruly guests. In my time as a spectator and coach in High School sports I have only witnessed a small amount of spectators be escorted out of the event. 90% or those people have been parents. What is the message that is sending? You are not asked to leave for a questioning comment, you are not asked to leave for calmly questioning a call of an official who just happens to hear you and you are not asked to leave for cheering for your team. You are asked to leave for being abusive. Either rude to refs and other teams or to others in the stands. I can understand the emotion that is involved when cheering on kids, grandkids and neighbours, heck I received a technical last year for losing my temper in a moment of weakness. I apologized after to my players. Last night we sat at a football game and as the refs made calls against one team their fans who we sat among yelled and screamed rude remarks, when the winds changed and another team was the target of the refs calls they cheered while the other team began to attack the refs who they had just been cheering previously. I looked around at the adults who surrounded me and saw their kids watching them and learning. Learning that it was ok to be rude, to insult others all in the name of cheering on your team. What is the message we are sending? We can be better.
When things go sideways
This week as I visited with a student who wanted to show me some instagram all about sports fights, you know the bench clearing ones of baseball fame. On Youtube today I saw a moment like this play out at a High School sporting event. At first I was confused at what was going on. It seemed a team was celebrating their win over the home town team in the middle of the field as happens as a football game ends, especially one that determines who continues on and who unfortunately turns in the equipment. I was disappointed as things unfolded in the minutes after the clock ended but will live forever in video. A player from the home team rushes the winning team and began shoving their players. Emotions are high and people are disappointed. I get that so surely the adults would step in but no this video showed something different. An adult motioning for their team to rush to join their lone teammate. I looked back as I could not believe this was possible. To my surprise it looked almost as if the adults, THE ADULTS, provoked the whole incident. A few on both side of the ball broke up the little scuffle but other adults argued with each other pointing fingers. The video ended and I was disheartened. Disheartened because I know kids that would think this display was AWESOME. I know adults who would encourage this. I have sat with them in bleachers, I have heard the things they say about kids on other teams and kids on their own. As someone watching a video I only had one perspective but the perspective I had was not pretty.
Moving to my lovely town introduced me to the joys of watching basketball. We were the SUPERFANS. Last year I had the opportunity to coach and saw my kids in a different way. Stressed, under pressure to perform. I wrote about it last year as our season ended here Things have not changed for our kids. They still have school piled on them, the expectations of their fans, the hopes of their parents, the entertainment of a community. In our communities they play an amazing role as student athletes but the first word is students. We need to remember that and do our best to help them succeed there to remove that stress. The other areas of concern that I have are out of our student athletes hands. They are in ours. Adult spectators and coaches we need to be better. This might not be a popular opinion by many who read it but High School sports stopped being about you (adults) when you finished High School. Coaching is about lifting students up to celebrate them, not pushing them into the fray. Being a supportive fan is not about cutting down others but about lifting up those we are there to support. There are so many eyes watching. I will always be there to support my students both in the classroom and the stands. I hope if I step out of line someone reminds me of what is really important.
Spoiler alert it is the kids.
If not, what message are we sending?