Parents, coaches, fans and officials


Some of you may not know this, but I once was a high school football player (Greenville) then college (Central Michigan University) and then a high school football official for 27 years. As an official, I worked basically three leagues: the Midwest Athletic, the Greater Western Ohio Conference and the Western Buckeye League. In all of these years, I have seen a lot of things good and a lot of things bad.

Sports are one of the best teachers about life that young people can be exposed to. To this day, I urge all parents to allow their children to be involved in some after school activity, no matter what it is. Band, cheerleading, FFA and other activities only add to a child’s life. They are all great teachers on how to work with others, how to sacrifice for a cause and of course what it takes to be successful. Success does not necessarily mean only winning. Success comes from getting better each time, turning out good people and eventually ending up with a successful, winning program.

We have a new program starting up in football at Tri-Village. I am glad to see this. I think football is the best sport ever (of course I could be prejudiced)! Tri-Village will suffer ups and downs along the way, but if handled correctly, they will ultimately be successful.

Because it is football season and because our high schools are all starting up soon and some programs are new and some just re-starting, I began thinking about what I have learned from sports, mostly from an official’s point of view. I hope not to offend anyone, but I think sometimes people need to be reminded of what they see, and hear and react to with young athletes.

When you attend a contest, please keep in mind that the players are young adults. They are not getting paid. They are playing because they like it. They are trying their best. That should be enough for everyone. As you sit in the stands as fans and scream about how lousy that player is, remember, YOU ARE NOT OUT THERE; THEY ARE.

Football is a confusing game. It also is very physical. You have heard the saying that football is a contact sport. It is not: it is a collision sport. Some players are bigger and stronger and smarter than others. That’s just a fact. Football plays on those mismatches. So, while you are screaming about how bad that player is, remember that other team is doing everything it can to exploit bad matchups, and that player you are screaming at is someone’s son or daughter. They could be screaming at yours on the next play!

The next person on the scream list is the coach. It is rare when an entire community can support a coach for a long time. Usually at some point you will start to hear that the coach is playing so and sos kid because of his name, social standing, parents’ wealth, blah blah blah. Learn this now; no coach worth his salt is playing anybody because of those things! Why? Because his job depends on his performance and if you think he will play someone who has less talent, you are terribly mistaken.

Parents, the reason your son or daughter is not playing is because THEY ARE JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO BEAT THE OTHER PERSON OUT! That is a hard lesson to learn. I hope if your son or daughter is not a starter or does not play much, you can tell your young athlete that. There is nothing wrong with telling them they have to work harder, get stronger and faster and make an impression. Parents can be the best thing for an athlete or the worst. Let them learn that there are people with more talent, just like in life.

One other thing, the reason that coach went from 8-2 last year to 1-9 this year is not because he took stupid pills over the summer. Could it be he just doesn’t have the talent he had last year. I would guess that’s it. So, please do not call him an idiot. If you have any concerns about why your child isn’t playing, or why the team is less than good, go ask him. He will tell you straight up what the deal is. Give him the respect he deserves by devoting his time to your child, trying to make them better.

When I was officiating, there were a lot of great coaches around. I enjoyed working with them. They did their best to bring out the best in their student athletes. Yes, they sometimes screamed and yelled, got upset and disciplined kids. Most did it the right way, some did not. Coaches, try to remember who you are working with. You are not coaching the Green Bay Packers; you are coaching young, impressionable humans who can LEARN if you TEACH them. Make sure you are not on an ego trip, and it is not all about you. It is about learning. Coaches put in a lot of extra time because they love the job, and most love the students. Some coaches can get to the point where they only care about winning and losing, (which is important or they wouldn’t keep score), but it is also a life experience for the athlete. Don’t forget that. Parents and students, if you think coaching is easy, then get into the profession. Good coaches are hard to come by. If you can do better, then do it. If not, support the coach every way you can.

Parents, students, coaches and fans, if you think coaching and playing and watching your child or team from the stands is difficult, try officiating. Yelling insults and curses at officials is an American tradition. It happens and we know that. This is the ONLY group on the entire field that everybody hates at one point or another! There is nothing worse than doing the very best you can, having a very competitive game, and you and your crew have to be ESCORTED off the field by police officers! It is not pleasant! I only had it happen a couple of times. I won’t say where, but it is not fun and leaves a terrible impression about your community, and that impression travels quickly among good officials and assigners.

Assigning agents may not send a really good crew to your community if it is too much of a hassle. That does happen, and fans need to remember that when they start to throw that hot dog or can at them when they leave! Officials are usually ex- athletes that still enjoy the game and want to be a part of it. They do it because they love it. They make enough for gas, and a meal afterwards, and that’s about it. Most can ignore the crowd. I was lucky, I could. Some can’t, and they are usually not good officials. You have heard the term “rabbit ear?” If that is you, get out. You will be too worried about what is being said instead of focusing on the game.

Officials are not perfect, and they make mistakes. They are human. The only mistake that should not be made is thinking the game is about you. The game or contest needs to be officiated fairly without too much intrusion by you. Let the athletes be the star, not you. If you can walk off after the contest and nobody knows who you are, you have had a good night. Do your job, regardless of the consequences. If you make a mistake acknowledge it and go on and be respectful and courteous no matter the situation. If you have to throw someone out of a game, it is possible that you let the situation get out of hand, not always, but ask yourself that afterwards and learn from it.

Football season is upon us, along with other school activities. Let’s all work together, parents, coaches, fans and officials to make sure the athletes have the most enjoyable and positive experience as possible, and if they have fun, we will too!

By Mike Stegall

Contributing Columnist

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