Sports football rolling list websitevirtual children by Scott Warnock

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Summer’s getting darn near over for many (as I’ve said before, though, not for me, so direct your sad thoughts elsewhere). Children will be taking to the fields again. Parents will be preparing for time on the sidelines and bleachers. For an unfortunately sizable portion of the latter group, their time will be spent… yelling at the officials!

Critiquing refs and umps is a long-running, pathetic national pastime. The lyrics from “Six Months Out of Every Year,” from the ’50s Broadway musical Damn Yankees, will sound familiar:

Strike three, ball four, walk a run’ll tie the score
Yer blind, Ump,
Yer blind, Ump,
Ya mus’ be out-a yer mind, Ump!

Yelling at the officials, for many, is just part of the landscape of sports, including youth sports.

But one ref had enough and started a Facebook page, as reported here and here, of videos of idiotic sideline behavior.

With videos about everything, we should have something like this. I’ve long wondered why organizations didn’t as regular practice film their coaches and, much like with athletes, review film and constructively and calmly break down coaching behaviors.

I’ve known reasonable, kind, calm people who morph into super jerks once the whistle blows. Forget that such behavior is a terrible role model for the kids. Forget that often, the biggest yellers also know the least about the sport and get the rules wrong. Once in the throes of competition, there’s no talking to these people. The stakes, in their minds, are too high!

I think putting their nonsense online for all to see may be one way to curb it.

There may be problems. Some videos may be out of context. Maybe (oh, no maybe about it) someone will sue. But the idea is great: Put an actual lens on this awful behavior.

I have long wondered just what drives this common behavior. In those musings, I’ve also wondered why I’m not a perpetrator.

After all, I’m hyper-competitive. I have been known to brood over losing a family game of Scrabble or flip out over a backyard lawn dart match (which can be awfully dangerous…). I had a kind-of template email to send to my tennis opponents to apologize for my bad on-court behavior. But I do not act in these ways as a coach or fan. I suppose, for reasons I’m not fully clear about, I just hold myself up to a higher standard in those roles.

I have been involved with my kids’ athletics for a long time, coaching them mostly in soccer and wrestling. I was thinking about our great years of soccer recently and was struck by how few specifics I remembered: Like most of my relationship to the past, I had big-picture emotional recall, but the details were a blur.

I say this because, in the end, attending or coaching your kids’ games should be an in-the-moment affair, nothing? more. Why act like an idiot when you won’t remember what were even screaming about?

To me, this remains one of those enigmatic aspects of human behavior. I look at people and think, “Why don’t you just try shutting the hell up?! Really, just give it a shot!” I don’t know if they are trying to impress their friends (or friends’ spouses…) or want to seem like some kind of PhD of sport or just act tough.

I’m glad this ref started this site. While it won’t cure everyone, it’s a start. After all, kids learn about sports by competing in youth leagues. Maybe adults can learn about being coaches and spectators in the same environment.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.

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