by Chris Hartley, director of athletics
A couple of years ago, I came across a sign in a park that had a very similar message on it as the one at the top of this blog. I now have a version of this on the wall in my office. These messages are really important to me. I love the work I do. I love supporting our students and coaches as they work together, face challenges together, and experience joy and community together. What I don’t like these days about youth sports is the behavior of fans. And, when I speak about fan behavior, I am not talking about our student cheering section. I am proud of our students. They show up, are loud, and focus their cheering on supporting our teams.
I think that one of the worst things to happen to youth sports is ESPN. Everyone now sees the inappropriate ways that fans carry themselves, and this leads fans of youth sports to mimic that behavior. Fans at professional events and some collegiate events exhibit appalling behavior that should never be a part of youth sports. I don’t understand why fans say awful things about an opponent’s family or their background. I don’t understand why fans throw things or taunt opponents by using racial or homophobic slurs. Additionally, these fans see the officials as awful people who are trying to ruin the experience for the players. When I am supervising at games as Lakeside’s director of athletics, I cringe when I hear people from the stands berating officials or booing opponents. At this level, everyone who is present should be focusing on the positive aspects of playing sports.
One of the most thankless jobs on the planet is being an official in youth sports. People certainly do not sign up for the money, and without officials, we would just be playing intramural games. The officials you see aren’t perfect, but they have stepped up to take on this responsibility for one reason: they want to offer the opportunity for our students to compete and enjoy athletics. Please, as you come to your student’s next competition, remember the officials are working hard to support the athletes. And, extend those same views to your student’s coaches. I ask that you read the messages shown on the sign pictured and do your best to remember them as you fill our stands or stand on the sidelines.
Our students choose to play a sport because it is a great way to have fun, be healthy, and be a part of something bigger than one. Please join in the celebration of the accomplishments of our student-athletes and our teams! As Lakeside’s public announcer Kevin O’Neill reminds us, “Be Loud; Be Proud, and Be Positive!”
Follow Lakeside Athletics on Twitter at @LakesideLions.