Power: Why can’t we just shut up and watch?

After years of being in gymnasiums, ball fields, and hockey rinks, I’ve come to the realization that something is missing from each of these sport facilities.

Parents need to look at their own behaviour at minor sporting events

Minor sports should be a fun and positive experience for the kids, and not a place for parents to show their worst behaviour. (Kevin Light/CBC Sports)

After years of being in gymnasiums, ball fields, and hockey rinks, I’ve come to the realization that something is missing from each of these sports facilities.

It occurred to me this week after reading a news story about two parents recently getting kicked out of a minor basketball tournament in Corner Brook. At a Grade 6 provincial basketball championship game at C.C. Loughlin School, the tournament convenor had to eject two parents — one at a time mind you, about five minutes apart — because of abuse of the officials.

Stories like these are what put the black eye on minor sports. 

I have my own parental ejection story. A few years ago, when I was president of a minor hockey association, a parent called me at 6:10 p.m. on a Friday night. The time is important because the game started at 6 p.m. So just 10 minutes in, this parent was already outside the rink, calling me to complain that the ref threw him out. In 10 minutes!

I asked what happened and was told firstly, “I didn’t swear at him.” Then, as the conversation progressed, this guy admitted to badgering the ref. He asked me how a ref can throw him out of the rink, and my response was that the association grants all our referees that power. He can stop a game if a parent is abusive.

Once I got to the rink, a little bit of calm had set in, and the parent realized he had gone too far. He wasn’t remorseful, mind you. But the worst part for me was when he told me his parents were in the rink to watch the grandson play, and Dad snapped.

How embarrassing must that have been to Nan and Pop as well as the kid on the ice, who would have obviously known it was his father getting tossed. How was that car ride home I wonder? (I always wonder if both parents are in agreement on the argument, or is one spouse extremely embarrassed by their partner’s behaviour?)

Reflections in a mirror

These facilities need full floor-length mirrors by the exits, so these moronic parents can see how stupid they look as they leave after being ejected — over a minor sports game! Their reflection should cause them to reflect.

Here’s why we need mirrors by the exits. Parents who are stupid enough to yell and scream at referees or umpires — who thankfully have often been bestowed the power to eject abusive fans from these facilities — need to see exactly how stupid they look as they make the long walk of shame out of the rink, or off the soccer pitch, or out of that school gym in Corner Brook.

That full length mirror can serve — using all my optimism here folks — to show these people what they look like when everybody in the facility is watching them slink out of the building or park.

What on earth possesses what one would assume to be a normally rational person into berating a young referee? Just because their daughter’s basketball team is behind by 10 points? Do they really think these refs, who are often young and learning the game like the players and are prone to mistakes, intentionally try to make one team lose, or call more fouls against the team wearing black? (I actually think the refs in the Corner Brook situation were adults, but I’m not 100 per cent sure.)

What must transpire for a parent to snap over a Grade 6 basketball team in February? Is it that important to the parent that their child have a provincial championship banner hanging in the school?

For kids to enjoy

This is certainly not a new topic, and certainly not the first time I’ve typed words to this effect, but the games are — or should be — for kids to enjoy. A chance to learn some things, not limited to the game and winning. Minor sports is about fostering friendships with kids your age — friendships that will endure long after the sports equipment has been put away, despite the potential of thousands of miles between the friends, and no matter what occupation.

Minor sports is about learning respect: for other players, coaches, and officials — a lesson clearly not learned by these two morons in Corner Brook.

There can be no way to justify those actions, by other parents or the individuals themselves.

My biggest concern with situations like this: If the parent acts like this in public, I shudder to think what he or she is like in the car on the way home if the son/daughter lost or failed to live up to the parent’s expectation.

If you have no problem displaying your anger in front of a few hundred people in a crowded gymnasium or a cold hockey rink, what do you do when the door to your home is closed?

And while this basketball ejection reaches the news because of its public nature, there are many other examples of parents who privately abuse their children’s coaches. You would not believe some of the things you see, hear, or read from parents if they believe their child was somehow neglected in the coaching process.

Setting examples

What kind of example are we setting here? I’ve been covering sports for more than a quarter century in this province, and there are only a small minority of parents who are of the idiotic mindset that they have the right to abuse coaches or officials. A very small minority.

Yet, they cause so much grief for the rest of us.

Minor sports are great avenues for kids to learn proper life lessons; they’re not the stepping stone to the pro game or to a college scholarship.

Minor sports are for kids. Let’s leave it to them, and get parents out of the equation.

Follow Don on Twitter: @PowerPlay27

About the Author

Don Power


Don Power is a freelance journalist who has covered sports in Newfoundland and Labrador for many years.