how to deal with out-of-control fans....

by Prez Ro, Matteson, IL

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You pay your money for admission to see a couple of hours of sports entertainment... next thing you know you are in the middle of another admission paying person who is using foul language, chants, taunting, interfering with a contest, or a fan rival.  No one should have to simply put up with such behaviors especially if you feel threaten or take away from your personal enjoyment.

The privilege of attending a game or event has been challenged in recent years by increasing perception that the purchase of a ticket somehow entitles the holder to any choice of behaviors, including may behaviors of concern.

The problem of negative fan behavior has reached levels of concern in all sport venues and needs to be seriously addressed, at all levels.  The American Athletic Institute through its mandated high school program, "Life of an Athlete," suggest a yellow card / red card warning system. The use of these cards are similar to soccer... yes!

While others, such as the Albert Lea district, published a set of standards that spell out for players, coaches, students, parents and community members the school district’s expectations for good sportsmanship at interscholastic athletic events. In their document,  players and their coaches and families were asked to sign, before play commenced, a compact to uphold the principles of appropriate behavior relative to each group. A parent, for example, signs a promise not to berate or taunt officials, coaches or opposing teams; a coach signs a promise not to force athletes to specialize too soon in one sport at the expense of all others.

The document, titled “Athletics the Right Way,” was influenced by last year’s “Sports Done Right” report produced at the University of Maine. It takes a broad look at a myriad of issues involving many groups — with a notable focus on spectators at interscholastic sports events in Albert Lea.

Indeed, many school districts have begun to use the comprehensive “Sports Done Right” report as a template, which emphasizes seven core principles and supporting core practices for creating an environment conducive to “discipline, respect, responsibility, fairness, trustworthiness and good citizenship.” The report identifies “out-of-bounds” issues — troubling trends in behavior on and off the field — that should be remedied.



The biggest question being asked is "how do we discipline parents?” Other than legal ramifications, you really don't have much control over them. What they are trying to do with their document is encourage peer pressure from other parents. Parents know appropriate behavior, and when they see inappropriate behavior, we hope they will intercede.

Tragically, some districts have to deal with the unthinkable, as when a disgruntled parent in Canton, Texas, about 60 miles east of Dallas, was arrested for last year’s shooting of Canton High School football coach and athletic director Gary Joe Kinne Jr., who recovered and has since joined the coaching staff at Baylor University. The parent, Jeffrey Doyle Robertson, who had been upset with the coaching system at the school for quite some time, was found guilty in February and sentenced in March to 20 years in prison.

Sports coaches in San Francisco are required to become certified through the American Sports Education Program, which will become a statewide standard for all coaches in California beginning in late 2007. San Francisco also uses resources from the Positive Coaching Alliance, which was established at Stanford University in 1998, and the Pursuing Victory With Honor program, which is a product of the Character Counts Coalition, affiliated with the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles.

With increased training and a concerted focus on the issue, Collins says he has seen in San Francisco “far fewer” incident reports related to poor sportsmanship.
While others handle things in a more hands-on legal way....

Earlier this year, Matthew Clemmens, 21, pleaded guilty for intentionally vomiting on an 11-year-old girl and her father during an April 14 Phillies-Nationals game at Citizens Bank Park. Clemmens, however, is just one of many Philadelphia fans who have disgraced their city in recent years.

During the eighth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 3, a 17-year-old fan ran onto the field waving a rally towel, only to be subdued by a Philadelphia policeman with a taser.

The next night -- apparently not fazed by the use of a police Taser the night before -- another Phillies fan made his way onto the diamond during the game.

In another unfortunate episode, Flyers fans trashed a Montreal hockey writer’s car after Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals last week.

On April 12 this year, during a Marlins-Dodgers game at Sun Life Stadium, a massive fight started in the right-field stands. Fans throughout the rows were beating down on each other.

On May 20, during a White Sox-Angels game at U.S. Cellular Field, two Chicago fans (they were both wearing White Sox shirts) started to tussle, before one of the fans did his best Joe Frazier impression on the other, throwing an absolute haymaker into his face.

As you can see fans act like rowdy, immature children across the country -- not just in Philadelphia.

So before you start judging an entire city by a few troublemakers, just remember Nov. 19, 2004, and the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl.

Senseless behavior can happen anywhere at just about anytime.


As alarming as this assessment is, it’s encouraging to know that dealing with student athletes is among the easiest tasks a school administrator faces when it comes to sportsmanship.

That’s the view of David Hoch, who spent 24 years as a coach, including 14 at the college level. Now the athletic director at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Md., Hoch, has a doctorate in sports management and 38 years in education. He has written more than 200 articles and has presented across the country on sportsmanship.

“Athletes you have control over,” Hoch says. “If your athlete doesn’t behave properly [and] exhibit good sportsmanship, the coach can simply say, ‘Sit by me on the bench,’ or ‘We’re going to do a little extra work at practice,’ or ‘You’re going to have to sit out the next game.’ You have a handle on the athlete. You don’t always have a handle on the fans or on the parents.”

Good coaches, Hoch says, use practices and games as “teachable moments.”

“Every single day our coaches should be helping young people learn and grow and mature,” he says. “A good coach goes a long way toward improving things. Consequently, a bad coach, one who doesn’t mandate or enforce good sportsmanship, can really be a trigger for bad sportsmanship. If you have one coach out of bounds, you have problems.”

Sometimes, though, even the best-laid plans and coaches aren’t enough. That is especially true when it comes to what Hoch calls “the absolutely hardest group to deal with, the individual who comes to your game who’s not a member of your school community.”

As Hoch put it, “You have no link, you have no way to communicate with, to educate, the person who drove a hundred miles just to see the game.”

In some instances, school districts have had to ban an out-of-control fan — or at least to civilly escort him or her from the stadium or gymnasium after an outburst of shamelessly uncivil behavior. At a school board meeting in February, Susan Dudley, the superintendent of the Edinburg, Ill., schools, publicly shared one such incident that occurred during a boys basketball game.

“It was a really close game, and it should have been a close game, because there were two highly competitive and talented teams playing a fairly aggressive game,” Dudley says. “Our players kept their cool. They played hard and they played to win, but they didn’t get overly aggressive and they were respectful to the referees and to the other players.”

Meanwhile, two fans in the stands had to be escorted from the gym for what Dudley calls “mouthing in the crowd.”

She adds: “There’s a way to cheer your team on without being derogatory toward the referee or his call. For the most part, we don’t have bad fans, but it’s that one or two who makes everybody want to crawl under the bleachers because it’s so embarrassing. Even their spouses won’t sit with them.”

Dudley regularly writes a column for the town newspaper and on one occasion she focused on the decorum of spectators at school sports events. This time, she was responding to some blatantly out-of-bounds behavior during baseball season. “It was just a way to make people think a little bit,” she says. “What you say isn’t just between you and the umpire at that moment. It’s a reflection on the entire student body and the community.” Dudley says her comments were received well by parents who told her it was a subject that needed to be addressed.

When push comes to shove, however, Dudley says a school district’s best defense lies with its coaching staff. Having capable basketball coaches, she says, is what prevented the fan fracas in February from becoming something worse and that allowed her student athletes an opportunity to demonstrate their poise under pressure, which she reinforced with praise at the school board meeting.

“The coach is one of the more important parts of your team,” Dudley says. “They set the standards. They set the expectations, they model those expectations and they work with the kids every day. Our job is much more than coaching a team and winning a ball game. We’re raising children. It’s a big responsibility and we have a hand in how those children turn out and what kind of adults they become. We need to take that obligation seriously.”


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