Thursday, February 2, 2012

Athletes and parents need attitude adjustment

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

As much as I try to be an optimist about the direction our society is heading, it is difficult when I see weekly examples of the horror some of our kids are capable of causing.

Just over a week ago, a high school basketball game between Fairborn and Miamisburg ended with a fight. The fight left one young Miamisburg player with serious injuries. A number of players were involved as well as some student fans.

The seriousness of this incident is closer to “home” than you think. Both of the teams involved in the altercation belong to the Greater Western Ohio Conference.

It is not hard to see where some the anger is coming from. Students, both players and fans, are growing up as part of a generation who cares little about anything but themselves. They have no respect for their teachers, parents or authority. They believe that they are entitled to anything that they want. There is no need to work for anything. If they want something, they will just take it.

Mind you, this is not a blanket description of everyone. There are still a lot of shining examples of how we want our kids to grow up, especially right here in Piqua. I still see good sportsmanship on the floor and in the stands.

Unfortunately, when one of our kids runs up against one of the unscrupulous types, he, or she, sometimes end up caught in the situation.

Too many of these testosterone-filled conflicts between athletes are spin-offs from how over-zealous parents treated their kids since they began playing sports.

Some are parents who, maybe, weren’t such hot athletes when they were growing and are reliving their dreams of athletic stardom through their kids. Others are parents who see the path to a college eduction for their child going by way of the football field or basketball court.

Too many kids have grown up hearing nothing but hype about how they are such superb athletes — in the minds of their parents. I have a news flash … just because one’s parents are willing to spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars to pay for their child to be on a traveling, or “select” team, does not mean that their child really is a superb athlete.

There is a time for encouraging and supporting our kids as they compete. That is part of being a parent. There are other, very valuable, lessons for our kids to learn. No one deserves to win. You win by working harder, by playing better. Another lesson to be learned is that not everyone is cut out to be a star athlete. You can want to be a star as much as you like, but some people have the athletic ability, and some do not. There are a few, for whom a great deal of hard work and dedication can make up the difference, but for some, they are never going to play above the high school level.

I might mention a side-effect of this parental attitude. A good number of these kids are so burned out on sports by the time they reach high school, that many want nothing to do with the sport when they can actually make their own decision.

By the time these kids get to junior high and high school, they believe the hype. Add to this, the selfish and uncaring attitude, and you have a walking stick of dynamite, just waiting for someone to light the fuse.

Sportsmanship. High school athletics are supposed to be about sportsmanship. Yet, schools allow, and I believe some even encourage, “trash talking.” I have even seen parents “trash talking” opponents. Student sections at games no longer chant encouragement to their players. Chants of “airball,” and other teasing and derogatory remarks are common. Granted, these are minor things, but they lead to more serious unsportsmanlike remarks.

I believe that if the Ohio High School Athletic Association, who claims to be all class and sportsmanship, really is serious about what they claim to stand for, they should take a hard-line stand against derogatory remarks, by both athletes and fans, as should the GWOC and other conferences.

Some, probably many, will say that such acts are done in fun and should be treated as such. There is no one who believes that the world is too thin-skinned more than I, but if if the OHSAA claims to be teaching sportsmanship, our high school athletic competitions are no place to allow negative remarks or actions.

The OHSAA slogan is “Respect the Game.” I think that it is time for them to draw the line, and close the door, on those who do not — respect the game.

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