Coaches can get caught up in the game, players can get caught up in the game and so it is fair to say that parents can be guilty of this as well. When it comes to parent behaviour there can be some very shocking events that transpire in the heat of the moment. After the fact the participants involved in these scuffles may feel bad about their behaviour but by then it may be too late to do much about it.
Many of us have witnessed parents lashing out at referees, other parents and even the coach of their own child’s team. It seems like when tempers flair no one is really safe from the wrath of a scorned parent who is attempting to protect their child. This is what makes this particular situation I witnessed that much more inspiring and impressive.
It was 9:00am on a Saturday morning in April of 2015. The team I was coaching was playing up in a tournament and facing teams in grade 10 that were a full year older than the players on my team. This was the host team of the tournament and the game started a bit late due to some issues with the game clock. My team got out to an early lead and was leading by a comfortable margin from the beginning of the game until late into the second half. The opposing coach had already been charged with one technical foul for lashing out at the referee on something he thought should have been called. With less than a minute left in the game and my team up by about 10 points the referee called a foul on my centre. As the referee approached the scorers table to report the foul the Head Coach of the other team started the slow clap to let the referee know its about time he called something worthwhile in his team’s favour. It should be noted that all throughout the game the calls didn’t seem one sided and the game was definitely not out of hand by any stretch. Calls were missed going both ways but not to a staggering degree. So it came as a surprise when this opposing coach was showing so much outrage especially at this point in the game.
The referee gave the coach a chance to calm down and stop what he was doing which was incredibly generous on the ref’s part. When the coach continued on with his disrespectful display the referee ended up charging him with a second technical which ejected him from the game. Once the team’s parents saw this they also started reacting as well which led to the referee also ejecting some of them too.
It was what happened next that was truly inspiring. As the players were lining up for the foul shots, the other team’s point guard made his way over to me and said “I am so sorry for how my coach and our parents are acting.” My team captain team heard what he said and put his hand on the players’ shoulder as a non-verbal gesture to say it’s okay. I told him not to worry about it we didn’t blame him.
Due to the parents reacting to this call and some of the parents refusing to leave the game was called early. As both teams lined up to shake hands each of the players from the opposing team said to myself and my assistant coach “sorry for our parents and our coach”. I was so touched by such a sportsmanlike attitude by the players in light of such a contrasting viewpoint of they parents a few moments earlier. Even as the boys shook our hands some of their parents were still charging towards the referees and insulting them.
There are so many lessons basketball can teach when people take the opportunity to learn. It is so refreshing when players learn things their parents haven’t quite grasped. Here are a few lessons to take into account:
1) Players often learn more from losing than from winning - think back to the failures you have encountered in your life and remember the important lessons that came from that. So, when you lose don’t lose the lesson. Often when a team wins they feel great and don’t take time to self reflect on what they can do better. Losing often makes people stop and think often due to the pain that comes with not succeeding.
2) The game is extremely difficult without referees - anyone who has ever played a pickup game without referees knows that it can sometimes turn into a courtroom where no one is ever guilty. Especially when the call isn’t respected. Pretty soon people are standing around arguing over whose ball it is and whether the infraction transpired of not. When this happens it can take a long time to get the game back on track again.
3) Lose the attitude and keep the gratitude - Never forget being a referee is hard work! There are 10 players on the court and it is hard for 2 or 3 people to see every transgression that might happen. Referees in many instances are keepers of the game in that they help to keep both teams in check. We have all seen referees do a terrible job at times but always try to remember they are human and can make mistakes just like we all can. Be as grateful as possible for their contribution and do your best to keep it positive. Also, keep in mind that many times referees at tournaments do many games in a row so sometimes fatigue can play a factor in their calls as well.
4) Try to keep perspective in the stands - focus on the importance of enjoying watching your child and their team play. Worry less about controlling the environment they are in.