The Sportsmanship Crisis

I’m a Twitter fan, and that’s no secret for those of you that know me. But one of my favorite things to do is to follow hashtags of particular sporting events simultaneously as they are played – specifically National Football League games on Sunday. It is here where one can really be educated as everyone Tweeting is an expert at officiating, playing and coaching even though many don’t know the rules, couldn’t draw a play, or throw the ball in the ocean if they were standing on the beach.

It’s actually quite embarrassing and it’s a place where bad sportsmanship has no barriers. Fans frequently burn jersey’s or make death threats to players, officials, and coaches. It’s an absolute disgrace. And it’s open for all to see that has an active social-media account. As a matter of fact, you just need a television to see it.

But it’s ok right? These guys are making millions and somehow it’s ok to treat them however we want. Because anyone making millions should be able to handle death threats. Give me a break.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t just happen on social-media or just to professionals. A culture of bad sportsmanship exits all the way down to our elementary programs. Our student athletes are learning that it’s never their fault. It’s always somebody else’s fault. The vulgarity shouted from the stands of sporting events at all levels is atrocious and it’s causing players to stop playing, coaches to stop coaching, and officials to stop officiating. Bad sportsmanship is diminishing the intended value that sports and activities offer for our students and we need to reverse this trend.

It starts by looking in the mirror. What can I do better? Listen – I’m no saint when it comes to watching sporting events. I stopped coaching high school sports because I too was diminishing the value it had to offer for my student athletes. I wanted to win at all costs, and my own mouth wasn’t immune to vulgarity when it came to players and officials. I’ve grown up now :).  Only smiling because some of you are questioning that statement.

But listen, there is hope. We can be better. You can be better. We all need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves one simple question. When at an event are you contributing in a positive way or negative way? It’s that simple.

Schools across the nation can combat the official’s shortage by having zero-tolerance for negative sportsmanship exhibited by players, coaches, and fans. School administrators can and should remove negative spectators. Coaches can and should remove players for exhibiting bad sportsmanship. We can all do our part to ensure winning at life is more important than winning the game.

Fans and game officials that see/hear negative behavior should report it. I can tell you first hand that administrators don’t have eyes all around their heads, ears that can hear across a gym, or a sixth sense that alerts them when something is up. Two or even three administrators covering a game where hundreds or thousands are in attendance is quite difficult. But if something does get reported – it should be dealt with immediately.

Schools officials should do their best to educate players, coaches and fans. The National Federation of State High School Associations has some great resources for all at I encourage anyone and everyone to visit that site. Particularly I encourage you to navigate to this video on their site…

Also, just for the heck of it lets do a little educating right now as we head into the Winter sports seasons. In particular, the sport of basketball. I wouldn’t dare speak to the sports of hockey or wrestling as I’m not well-versed as to the rules and regulations. < – – – – – Sign of me growing up. 🙂

  • Over-the-back is NOT a foul. No need to holler this phrase at a game. On-the-back would potentially be a foul.
  • Reaching is NOT a foul. No need to holler this at a game either. Making contact to a point in which an advantage is gained for either an offensive player or defensive player would potentially be a foul.
  • It’s not a travel unless it’s called. It’s not a foul unless it’s called. It’s not out-of-bounds unless it’s called. No ref is going to blow their whistle and say “oh wait (Johnny sitting in seat 6, row J, section 241) you are right, let’s reverse that call.”
  • Block or Charge…just don’t even go there. There are so many mechanics that play into these calls and you likely don’t know half of them.

I believe we have a major problem that will only get worse if we all don’t take a hard look at ourselves and what we allow. If you are a parent and you can answer true to any of the following questions you are creating an unhealthy environment for your child, yourself, and likely your child’s team.

1. I try to solve my child’s problems for them?
2. My son/daughter avoids me after games or events?
3. I critique my child’s coach in front of him/her
4. I coach and critique my child during games?
5. My anxiety out-weighs my joy while watching my child participate?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a “true” for number four. I’m working on it, and if we all made a concerted effort to “work on it,” we can start to put the joy back into playing, coaching, and officiating for all of those involved.

It’s time we put a stop to the nonsense that plagues our nation, states, and schools. I’m blowing the whistle now. It’s time for a time-out. It’s time to draw up a play for good sportsmanship. It’s time to look in the mirror, and self reflect. Can you be better? If so, check yourself back in and start doing so.

2 thoughts on “The Sportsmanship Crisis

  1. I am a baseball and softball umpire, and just got into refereeing football in the last couple of years; and you sir, are spot on. In the state of Kentucky, and more specifically, my region; we are losing officials, because of abuse and younger officials are not interested in becoming certified. I appreciate your post and views on how to fix the problem. Unfortunately, for every you; there are 50 people that think because they pay to get into said event, they can act however they choose. Again, just wanted to say I appreciate your post!


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