By Tim Peterson
It’s only passing league. A win in the tournament doesn’t earn you a CIF title, a trip to the playoffs or even a few days off. You might get a trophy for your efforts or even a pat on the back but that’s about it.
“It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how you compete,” coaches told me over and over again Saturday at the SGV Shootout at Arroyo. “It’s just giving your kids a chance to show what they can do.”
“For us it’s just a practice,” said first year Gladstone head coach Ted Clarke. “We’ve only been out for a couple of weeks.”
That’s understandable and it all makes sense but when the players are between the lines and the competitive juices kick in it’s more than just a practice. At that point, regardless of whether you’re in T-shirts and shorts on a hot July afternoon or helmets and pads on a cold November night, winning becomes the most important thing. Nobody wants to lose and in the moment the competing athletes will do anything within their power to achieve that goal.
But it’s not just the players, it’s also the coaches and maybe more than anybody else, the fans. Yes, the fans.
Such was the case Saturday. The competition heated up, the trash talking began, a call or two was missed, or perceived to be missed, by the officials, and the next you thing you know you had fans and parents screaming at the officials or even the opposing team from the sidelines. Yes…the fans. Remember this is a passing league competition, a glorified practice if you will.
“Their fans were instigating the whole time. Several of them kept talking trash to my cornerback,” a local coach told me Saturday.
Some even ran out on the field to protest an officials’ call during one game.
I noticed the same thing at a passing tournament I was at earlier this year. Two fans (guys probably in their mid thirties) who were standing ouside the back of the endzone constantly badgered and harangued a player on the opposing team the entire game. Occasionally the player would glance back at them only to be met with “Yeah were talking to you!” Or “Turn around!”
It’s a little intimidating for a high school kid who was just trying to compete. It’s understandable for the players and the coaches to get caught up in the moment…it’s actually to be expected, a no brainer…but the fans getting involved needs to stop.
What’s the best way to prevent it? I don’t know. It would be nearly impossible to prevent fans or parents from attending passing league competitions. But how about this? If a fan is warned but keeps berating officials it will result in a 15-yard penalty against their team. And if it still persists that fan, parent or not, would be ejected. And if the fan trash talks or is bothering a player, it’s a penalty and an immediate ejection. Ejections and penalties for fans won’t resolve all of the problems. But it’s a start. It would send a message. Fans can root for their teams, but all of the other nonsense won’t be tolerated.
That being said, several coaches told me the SGV Shootout is the best organized and best run tournaments of the summer. Saturday was no exception. A great tournament was had by all. Now if we can just get all of the fans to realize the same thing.
That’s my principle.
Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tspeterson40.