Several recent injury-causing fights centered around high school athletics have us asking: How could this violence have been prevented? Would this happen in places where coaches, schools, and communities emphasize character, sportsmanship, and accountability just as much as they do building skills and winning contests?
Read about some recent events, and let us know what you think.
- First up, two powerhouse basketball rivals near Pittsburgh played a big game in front of empty stands last week after players from both schools got into a fight off school grounds that included a stabbing. The player accused of the stabbing was kicked off his team, and others who participated in the fight are serving multiple-game suspensions. The two schools, Beaver Falls and New Brighton, agreed to ban spectators from their match-up on Friday, out of fear of more violence. Beaver Falls is the second-ranked AA team in the state, and one its players has been charged by police with aggravated assault in connection with the stabbing.
- In Texas, a basketball coach took a shiner this month after being punched while he was trying to break up a post-game attack on some of his players. The game had ended without incident, and the home team was in the locker room when some of visiting Coach Greg Devers’ players were jumped by fans of home team LeMarque High. Devers jumped in to help up a parent who had been knocked to the ground, and immediately took several punches to his face. Eventually, a school police officer and other adults broke up the fight. No one has been charged criminally in the incident. La Marque officials confirm that some students have been suspended, but they declined to give details about student discipline at the school.
- The Texas case reminded us of football Coach David Daniel in Georgia. Back in October, we told you about injuries he sustained when was attacked when he tried to intervene in post-game brawl between his team and the home team they were visiting. Coach Daniel underwent several facial surgeries and is doing OK. But the relationship between his school, Warren County, and neighboring rival Hancock County? Not so much. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took months to complete their inquiry into the incident, and interviewed over 100 people. But no clear narrative of exactly what happened emerged, with witnesses from the two schools giving conflicting descriptions of the fight. Then, in January, a grand jury in Hancock County declined to indict anyone. That means no students will be charged with criminal responsibility for the coach’s injuries.
But that doesn’t mean that the conflict is over. The superintendent of Warren County Schools says that civil suits will be filed. Also, some in Warren County are calling foul over the fact that the forewoman of the grand jury is a staff member at the Hancock County school. It sounds like the bad blood between these two small communities (Hancock County is home to just over 5000 people; Warren County to about twice that) is just going to get worse — and it’s all fueled by poor sportsmanship.
After we first posted about Coach Daniel, a commenter named Christy wrote, “This is what happens when we let little things go repeatedly and stand by and keep our mouths shut. They turn into big things.”
What Christy wrote can be applied to all three of these incidents. Little things — like failure to demonstrate fairness, responsibility, and respect on a daily basis — leads to big things — like violence, grand juries, and banning fans from games.
What kinds of “little things” do you do to create a environment where little things matter, fairness and responsibility are mandatory, and sportsmanship is paramount? Have you ever had to work uphill to improve a school sports climate that was tense or threatening? Tell us about your experiences.