Having the chance to be a spectator at any sporting event is a privilege now during COVID. Once upon a time, we could choose from a multitude of sporting events to watch in person. We took being a spectator for granted. Everyone, except one parent in some cases, must either watch online or not at all.
Temporarily gone are the days of fans yelling obscenities at athletes or referees getting harassed. Sometimes, many times, spectators can take things too far. This is prevalent, especially in youth sports which seems ridiculous when thought about. Far too many times, spectators are not respectful to the refs, coaches, players, or the game itself. Learn about the lost art of spectating.
Respect the Refs
If not the, most stressful and disrespected individual during a match of any sport is the referee. They are often the scapegoat of fans whose team was just defeated by the other team. They are dwarfed compared to the fans eager to throttle them if they could just get down on the field and get their hands on them.
Often, the refs are blamed for favoring one side over another and acting like another player in the game. At times this is true, whether intentional or not. Sometimes refs impact a match in a way they are not meant to. In the end, the referees are present to make sure the game is played fairly. Sometimes one side simply makes more mistakes than the other, and it appears that the refs are favoring one side.
Regardless of if the refs are calling a good game or not, they should be respected. It takes a lot of skills to watch all aspects of the game and get the calls correct. Not to mention being able to remember all of the rules and different ways they can be violated by players and coaches.
Nobody says that spectators have to agree with the referees or not curse them when your team makes a mistake and has a penalty called on them. At the end of the match, just simply respect them. There are far too many youth sporting events where overly aggressive parents yell obscenities at part-time refs. Of course, all of these parents think their 8-year-old child will be the next Lebron James or Serena Williams and will let everyone know.
Let the Coaches Coach
Coaches are next in line for harassment from the spectators in the stands. How the players perform on the field is often credited (good or bad) to coaching. Which, if wrong, can result in spectators becoming upset. Often in youth games, bleacher coaches will take it upon themselves to coach up their kids, and sometimes other children, from the bleachers. Do they realize how this makes the actual coach (probable volunteer) of the team feel? Is this youth sport so important that they have to intervene and disrespect the coach? And make themselves look like a fool in the process? The answer to both of those questions is no.
Disrespect also happens in sports above the youth level. It is not as big of a deal because coaches are often full-time salaried employees and are professional coaches above the high school level. Again, it comes down to respect for coaches and the game. A good spectator should let the coaches do their job. If they think, they should bring it up outside of the event, not in front of every other parent and child in an overly loud, counterproductive way. Being a coach is tough, especially with youth athletes who have a very small attention span. More often than not, this youth sports coach is also a parent and may not have any coaching experience. Fans should lay off the volunteer youth coach and save the criticisms for the coaches who are actually getting paid.
Instead of trying to correcting coaches from the stands, try cheering positively for all parties involved. It sets a better example of how to act for the children, and it does not make the parent look like a fool at the same time, a win-win. Supporting the coaches and the players will help the teamwork together.
Let the Players Play
The final chain of harassment from surly spectators is the players themselves. How many times has ESPN shared a story of a fan courtside at an NBA game yell some type of obscenity at a player and get kicked out for it? This was frequent pre-pandemic and even happened recently at a Lakers game. Players say that they cannot wait to get fans back into arenas to bring back the energy in the building that has been lacking during the pandemic. However, cursing at and yelling hate speech at players is not what they are looking for, and there is no place for it in sports or anywhere else in this world. This is also common in professional baseball. The outfield fans are very close to the outfielders and frequently taunt opposing players.
Not many adults are out there screaming the same things as youth players. If they are, they should immediately be banned from every sporting event ever. Still, it occasionally happens in public and almost certainly behind the scenes in youth sports and above the high school level, especially in professional sports where the players are predominately a minority. Many times, when these stories are published, the comments made by spectators are racially motivated. It negatively impacts the individual, and rightly so, but it puts a bad look on the entire area where it takes place. Respect the players, where you live, and the game.
Follow The Rules
Right now, this means following the venue’s guidelines regarding COVID-19. Wear a mask, stay socially distanced, and follow any other guidelines they may have. In the end, children act how they see the role players in their lives act so if a parent throws a fit about something as simple as wearing a mask in public, they will act the same way. That goes for how parents treat refs and coaches. If they see parents yelling at their coaches or refs in the game, they will think it is okay to do the same. Be an example for children.
Of course, this applies to more than just COVID-19 restrictions. In normal times it means more or less all of the topics discussed above. Respect the refs, the players, and the game overall.
COVID has made spectating a sporting event a special privilege as many colleges and professional sports have no fans. Many youths matches only allow one parent of each athlete to watch in person at a time. If you do have the opportunity to spectate a match of any kind, do not act a fool.
- The referees are there to make sure that each team has a fair chance at victory.
- Coaches who are there to develop players and often are volunteers.
- The players themselves by treating them as people and not just inanimate pieces of a team that do not have feelings or opinions.
Finally, respect the game by doing all of those things and acting like a proper spectator. Follow the rules that apply to the current COVID-19 restrictions. That does not mean sitting quietly and saying nothing but bringing energy into the arena positively and productively. That is what the players want and miss, and that is what people like to see from the stands.