Just a Thought: Violence increasing off the field

 

When one head coach heard about a parent attacking an assistant coach at Monterey, his first thought was that would never happen here.

Two days later, a coach at Alvarez was confronted with a knife in the parking lot after a game by a relative of a player. Another parent was arrested that same night with a gun on the Alvarez campus.

Still think it can’t happen, coach?

One parent is facing jail time. Another may lose his job. Both have restraining orders from stepping on campus to watch their kids play.

Was it worth it?

“When did it stop being fun, about having fun being a kid?” North Salinas coach Steve Zenk said. “I do not know if  there is any way to stop it. If that had been me, I would have quit. I have a wife and son.”

Is it safe to coach football anymore?

We’ve allegedly had a knife pulled on one coach, who has since resigned. Another coach has welts on his side from getting hit by an ax handle. And another parent is packing a firearm.

And these are two football programs coming off their best seasons in over a decade.

“I think we have lost prospective on what sports is and where high school athletics take you,” Salinas coach Steve Goodbody said. “A few individuals took it to a level it shouldn’t have risen to.”

Trust me.

These aren’t isolated incidents that just happened to happen over a 48-hour period. These are just the ones that were reported.

We have had parents confront coaches or shout at them in a hostile manner on at least three other occasions this year. One coach was told “I’m going to get you.”   I know football is a testosterone-driven sport.

“You are dealing with a sport where you have the most aggressive kids,” Zenk said.

But why the increased violence from parents? No, it’s not the society we live in.

“Administration has to have the courage to tell fans this is not going to be tolerated,” Seaside coach Al Avila said. “Last year we had a parent come charging out on the field. Schools have to do a better job of policing things.”

Personally, I feel we’ve lost sight of what high school sports is really about. It’s a game.

Seeing your dad go to jail for beating a coach isn’t a memory worth rekindling at a 20-year reunion.

“These are parents that have lost touch of what is going on,” North Salinas assistant principal and district athletic coordinator Jean Ashen said. “The only reason you should be there is to support your child and team.”

We all want to protect our kids when we feel they’re not treated fairly. But violence and threats are not the way to handle it. What ever happened to having a discussion?

“You may disagree on how coaches handle things,” Goodbody said. “But that’s part of the learning process. You’re not always going to agree on things. That’s life.”

These incidents haven’t solved the problem. They’ve only enhanced it. And we still have more than half a season to play.

No one wins.

A coach steps down. Two parents are arrested.

“The sad thing is some parents don’t understand that this is supposed to be about the kid,” Goodbody said.

And what about the kid?

Did anyone consider the embarrassment he will endure? Your child can’t hide from the fact that his dad — his hero — made news for the wrong reasons.

It can’t be fixed. Punishment is coming down. You can’t brush this under the synthetic grass and pretend nothing occurred.

“I was told a long time ago the best soup was made at home,” said former NFL star and coach Herm Edwards, a 1972 Monterey graduate. “It starts with the parents. Anytime your parents start feeling like they’re living through you as an athlete, that’s a bad example to set.”

But are more incidents forthcoming? And what is administration doing to make sure we don’t have a confrontation during a game? Do we need metal dictators at the gates?

“Can we prevent this from happening? I don’t think so,” Ashen said. “Security will be more visible. We do not want to overreact. But don’t discount the situation either. Most people are coming for the right reasons.”

A high school in Wisconsin forces everyone to purchase a ticket on line, then show ID at the gate to prove they are the ones that bought the ticket. That way the school knows who everyone is in the stadium.

“Do I want to go that route? No.” Ashen said. “But how are we going to prevent things like this from happening?”

Listen to people in the stands at any school and you’re showered with profanity  — often toward coaches from adults.

There is a lot of hostility up there.

Why?

Coaches can’t feel threatened just because someone’s kid isn’t starting.

“It will never effect how I coach,” Goodbody said.

I saw the injuries on one coach. Those aren’t bruises. These are welts.

If a kid isn’t showing a lot of discipline on the field, I can see why now. I’ve always said the problem often starts at home.

“I think Salinas has done a good job of emphasizing a positive environment at athletic events,”  Ashen said. “But it is time to re-evaluate things. We can’t let our guard down. Some people are forgetting why they are there.”

John Devine writes for the Monterey Herald.  Among other things, he writes a column entitled “just a Thought”.  He can be reached at jdevnine@montereyherald.com.  This column first appeared on the newspaper blog site; but has been reprinted on other sites.  Ethics in sports is a major topic for students at the United States Sports Academy.  For more information on Academy programs, go to http://ussa.edu.

 

2 Comments

  1. Greg Tyler October 17, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Anyone who reads the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today will see an article about a coach and his players being attacked following a victory on the road in a Friday night game in east Georgia.  The coach is in the hospital and has had extensive surgery following a blow to his head by a helmet allegedly swung by one of the home team players.  Someone locked the visiting team locker room and they were trapped when they were attacked.  The local sheriff in the rural county has refused calls for him to ask the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the attacks.  Just another night of socially sanctioned violence.  I guess that is to be expected when Georgia and Vanderbilt coaches get into after Saturday night’s game in Nashville and the head coaches of the 49rs and Lions were last seen pushing, shoving and screaming at each other after yesterday’s NFL game.

     
  2. Greg Tyler October 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Anyone who reads the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today will see an article about a coach and his players being attacked following a victory on the road in a Friday night game in east Georgia.  The coach is in the hospital and has had extensive surgery following a blow to his head by a helmet allegedly swung by one of the home team players.  Someone locked the visiting team locker room and they were trapped when they were attacked.  The local sheriff in the rural county has refused calls for him to ask the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the attacks.  Just another night of socially sanctioned violence.  I guess that is to be expected when Georgia and Vanderbilt coaches get into after Saturday night’s game in Nashville and the head coaches of the 49rs and Lions were last seen pushing, shoving and screaming at each other after yesterday’s NFL game.

     

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