Keep the sportsmanship in sports

Keep the sportsmanship in sports

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Joe Perry, Sports Writer

“Young people need models, not critics.” This simple yet complex line was spoken by John Wooden, who won 10 NCAA championship titles and led the UCLA Bruins to four undefeated seasons during his tenure as their basketball coach. Wooden retired in 1975, but the truth in this statement still rings true today. During an era where professional athletes are constantly degrading each other, politicians are employing continuously divisive rhetoric, and the media seems to have made it their mission to blow it all out of proportion, it’s important that we, as a community, set a positive example for our youth, both in action and in words.

This past week, Delphi’s eighth grade girls’ basketball team was playing Clinton Prairie at home. Not a big game, right? At least, that’s what I thought. However, from the point of view from a certain Clinton Prairie parent, it might as well have been the Super Bowl. Sitting two people away from me, this parent was getting upset at every missed foul, every called foul, and everything else you can imagine. In fact, during the third quarter, you could hear him say to his peer, “Watch the clock. These girls aren’t getting it across the court in ten seconds,” referencing the ten-second rule that results in a turnover if a team doesn’t push the ball across midcourt. Luckily for just about everyone, Delphi’s girls did manage to get the ball across midcourt before the ten second mark. Nevertheless, this hawk-eyed critic of a group of twelve year olds was just the beginning of the heated ordeal.

Early in the fourth quarter, one of the game’s referees blew his whistle to signal the end of a timeout, and, like previous timeouts, the Clinton Prairie coach kept his team in the huddle to finish explaining the game plan. Meanwhile, the Delphi girls had already been sent out onto the court and were ready to resume play. So, before the Clinton Prairie coach sent his girls back out onto the floor, that referee decided to let the Delphi girls inbound the ball. What ensued was the Clinton Prairie coach sending his team running out onto the floor in a mad dash to play some sort of defense while the coach slammed his clipboard onto the bench. The tension furthered when the coach tried to call a timeout after a free throw and, for some reason, the same referee refused to give him one. The coach continued to call for a timeout as the play resumed after the missed free throw, and the referee refused to grant him one. Finally, the other referee blew his whistle and signaled for a timeout. However, the point had been made. After the timeout and a little bit of play, there were 19.8 seconds left and Clinton Prairie was leading 30-18, an insurmountable lead for a middle school game. It was here when the coach decided to make his own point, as he called three consecutive full timeouts, which kept the game unnecessarily sidelined for three silent minutes with 19.8 seconds left in a game which was already decided.

This sort of pettiness in response to adversity is not the kind of example that we need to set for future generations within our community.

The behavior displayed by the referee was uncalled for. However, their job is simply to apply the rules of basketball to the competition, and whether it’s fair or not is up to individual interpretation. The coach, on the other hand, has a much more important position. While the obvious obligation of the coach is to help the players progress in the sport, their most important duty is to encourage the positive development of the players’ character. Coaches can do this by setting a good example of how to respond to adversity. Correspondingly, the fans should be aware of the example they are setting as well. Rather than break down the players’ performance by the second, fans should seek to build them up for the defense that they play or the shot that they miss.

I realize that this was just a single occurrence. However, this single occurrence embodied the overall decline in sportsmanship that has occurred in our society. This past Saturday, a fan had to be escorted out of the high school basketball matchup between Delphi and Rensselaer. A couple weeks before that, a technical foul was called on Delphi’s bench that may have affected the outcome of the game. If we keep along this path, then the generation that is looking up to us now will grow up to display even less sportsmanship than what was laid out in the aforementioned middle school game, and it’s only downhill from there.

Therefore, I ask you to display kindness towards others. Instead of denouncing the small infraction, applaud the overall success. Rather than nit-picking the referees, be thankful that they catch the obvious calls. Above all, make sure that your actions set a good example for others; after all, the example you set today will be the actions portrayed by the people of tomorrow.