As we head into March, the basketball season is starting to wind down locally. The regular season is over and tournaments are in full swing. For me, it has been another year being a referee for the 5 & 6 and the 7 & 8 year old leagues for the Clinton Recreation Department at the Bellamy Center. Things have gone well and I have really enjoyed working with the young players and coaches. For the most part, the fans and spectators at the games, while cheering and excited for their team, have been friendly and respectful. I think most of them see this old guy chasing those kids up and down the basketball floor as the only referee and think, “Bless his heart, he’s doing the best he can.” And they may have been actually concerned about my heart.
But while things have gone well this year at the Bellamy Center, I have heard of a couple of spectator related incidents at basketball games in this area. It reminded me of the first column I wrote for this newspaper three years ago after my first season as a referee for the Rec. Dept. It was about my experience that season and some of the behavior of some of the fans. Portions of the column are below.
I wrote in reference to my refereeing experience back in 2010 that, “I saw skilled players learn and get better during the season and the not-so-skilled learn and improve. I saw 7 & 8 year olds learn the joys of competition and being on a team. I saw them learn the joy of winning and the disappointment of losing. That’s important, because that’s a part of life. But, I also saw a losing team that, while disappointed, with encouragement from their coach, know that they had improved and played their best, and that’s more important. And they all were having fun.”
“Yes, the young basketball players learned a lot this season. But I hope there is one thing they didn’t learn. And that is the actions of some of their parents, grandparents and other spectators at the games. Disagreeing with officials about a call is part of the game. And in the excitement of the game, a coach saying to me, ‘Mac, you missed the call!’ really doesn’t bother me. I understand it. Now after about the fifth time telling me that, well, that’s enough. But I understand it.”
I continued back in 2010 writing, “But what I don’t understand are personal verbal attacks on officials and coaches by parents, grandparents and fans, especially in a 7 & 8 year old league. It’s a 7 & 8 year old league, for heaven’s sake! I had a couple of direct comments said to me but they didn’t bother me. That’s where considering the source, having worked thirty years with the Dept. of Revenue, and having some hearing loss comes in handy. But what was troubling was to see and hear of mean spirited, personal actions and comments by spectators during and after the games to other officials and coaches. I had one spectator state to me that he was ‘embarrassed’ to be there and hear what was being said.”
“Of course, the large majority of the spectators at the games are there to encourage and support their young players in a proper way. It’s actually fun to be a part of a game with a loud, cheering and excited crowd. I know the kids really get a charge out of you being there and being excited for them. And I know the ones who ‘show themselves,’ as my mama used to say, really care about their children. But what are they ‘showing’ their children?”
“Just as these young players are learning to dribble, play defense and teamwork, they are learning about dealing with what they see as a ‘bad call.’ We, as adults know that they all will face situations later in life that will be looked at as ‘bad calls.’ Are they learning to deal with it, make the best of it, and move on in a positive direction? Or, are they learning to blow up and ‘show themselves?’”
The column concluded with, “Of course, these types of actions by parents, relatives and fans are not anything new. Anyone involved in youth athletics has seen it and has had to deal with it. This is just a personal observation in hope that maybe that person will think next time before they get too carried away and ‘show themselves’ in front of young players and spectators.”
I personally have not had any of the above mentioned problems while officiating this year. But, maybe it’s good to get a reminder. Besides, baseball season is just around the corner.