Program urges fans to ‘enjoy the game’
With college coaches hit with suspensions for fighting fans and baseball coaches attacked by fans, sportsmanship is becoming a greater concern.
High schools aren't immune to such actions as fans chasing an official out of an auditorium following a closely contested game, a parent walking onto the field of play to confront officials,or a player responding to a cheap shot by delivering one of his own.
Bill Stutz, who has been involved in athletics through playing, coaching and officiating the past 25 years, has created a program designed to counter these trends and bring sportsmanship back to athletics.
His Enjoy the Game program hasn't been implemented at De Soto High School yet, but has been implemented at other Kaw Valley and Frontier League schools. So far, it's worked pretty well for those schools and is expected to debut in De Soto soon.
"We are wanting to promote a more positive atmosphere in the building and on the teams," said De Soto High School Principal Debbie Lynn. "I think that high school sports all sports are being taken way too seriously and are too stressful for all involved. High school sports should be enjoyed by the player as well as their families."
Before Enjoy the Game is put in place at the high school, athletic director Roy Hawley said all of the coaches must buy into the program. Once that is accomplished, a parents' meeting will be scheduled before the first basketball game.
The program, which was founded in 1998, is designed for coaches and physical education instructors to share with players and parents alike. It will use videos, pre-planned activities, discussion and accountability contracts to get its point across.
The accountability contract is designed to get participants to pledge that they will do their best to follow the philosophies of Enjoy the Game during a sporting event.
And if they fail to do so?
"I don't know that there are any guidelines put in place for those who break their contract in the program," Hawley said. "We have our own policies in place already.
"Hopefully people will police themselves. If a parent or fan is sitting next to somebody that is acting inappropriately hopefully they'll say, 'Please just enjoy the game,' or 'You're making a spectacle of yourself.'"
Enjoy the Game is based on the premise that players play, coaches coach, officials officiate and spectators spectate. Stutz hopes that all involved in the program will learn their roles and stick to them.
Stutz said in a brochure his company puts out that other programs attempt to teach the same values, but fail to do so because they don't tackle the problems at their root.
According to Hawley, the root of the problem starts with each individual.
"I think basically it starts with you and the respect you have for the players, coaches and officials involved," Hawley said. "And the respect you have for the rules.
Hawley recalled one event that impacted him early on in his officiating career.
"I was at a certain town in Kansas for my first game as an official and the fans were very belligerent towards us (officials)," he said. "That's all I remember of that town. How their fans didn't display sportsmanship. That's what we're trying to do here in De Soto. Make sure people don't look at us in the same way."