Throngs of fans from Nashville and Murphysboro trekked to DeKalb last weekend to watch their beloved Hornets and Red Devils play in state championship football contests.
Unfortunately, neither the Hornets nor Red Devils came away with the big trophy. Their fans were undeterred, turning out in big numbers when the teams returned home.
That’s called perspective.
Granted, getting to the state title game can alter your outlook for the better.
Far too often, fan behavior is less than exemplary. Leather-lunged, and often ill-informed fans, are less than shy about heaping abuse, frequently unwarranted, at coaches and officials.
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Concord-Triopia superintendent Adam Dean took on the issue head-on with a letter to parents and community members this week. Dean noted that fan behavior at Concord-Triopia has generally been exemplary, but everyone needs a reminder occasionally.
He mentioned the officiating crisis in youth sports. According to the Illinois High School Association there has been an 11 percent decline in officials renewing their licenses. And, statistics show 80 percent of new officials give up their avocation after just three years.
“As you show up at the gym this winter, keep this shrinking population in mind,” Dean wrote. “And, if I may, if you are doing anything other than cheering on your team when you go to a game, take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror. Not only are you embarrassing yourself and your neighbor, but you are probably embarrassing the team you are rooting for.”
I’ve seen kids try to hide on the sidelines while their parents are making fools of themselves in the stands. I’ve heard players tell their teammates, “Tell your old man to stay home next week.”
How’s that for a different perspective? Is a win or a loss that important that you would embarrass your child in such a way?
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It turns out all we needed were better football teams.
And, Dean was no more subtle in taking on the abuse of coaches.
“Coaching is a calling that many couldn’t handle,” he wrote. “You take athletes at all different ability levels, put in countless hours and hope that your work and preparation are good enough to win at the end of the day.
“You build relationships with these athletes and hope that all is cohesive so that you have some success. You make decisions on playing time, which is a largely impossible task where someone is always unhappy. This is also while battling second guessing in the stands on why you made that call or chose that play.”
LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at email@example.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.
Veteran coaches say the situation is getting worse every year, prompting some to get out of the game early. That’s a lose-lose. Coaches give up a game they love. Players lose the experience of playing for dedicated, knowledgeable coaches. And, the games suffer.
Because adults can’t behave themselves.
“When you get caught up in the heat of the moment and want to yell at an official, who is a human being, take a deep breath,” Dean wrote. “If you want to bash a coach with other parents after a game, who had done everything they can to the best of their abilities, take a second and chill out.”
I can’t improve on that advice.