You might have heard about this story already, but we felt that it deserves attention as a cautionary tale and a reminder to parents that sometimes we can get too wrapped up in the outcomes of kids’ games.
Last week at a CYO 6th grade basketball game in Springfield, Mass., an assistant coach of the losing team allegedly attacked the head coach of the winning team – stunning everyone, including the winning coach. When the pair wrestled to the floor, knocking kids and parents out of the way, the alleged attacker bit the rival coach’s ear, tearing off a piece of it.
Timothy Forbes has been arrested and faces some pretty severe charges. The winning coach was rushed to the hospital and later released. The local CYO, obviously embarrassed by the incident, stated this week that beginning next season parents attending games must sign a code of conduct agreement. Violate it once and you’re banned from attending games.
It’s a shame, of course, that such a rule is even necessary. But we’ve all seen parents lose their manners at games. And the kids have seen it too, just as the kids at the Springfield game witnessed the fray. In the heat of competition, tempers sometimes flair, even when the games involve elementary school kids. As adults, we bring the disappointments and frustrations of our day to the games, and a few questionable calls from the ref can be a convenient place to vent those emotions.
It’s not that the alleged attacker is some kind of monster or that, in calmer moments, he doesn’t know all the platitudes that have been issued since the event. Yes, he knows that it’s just a kids’ game; he knows that youth sports are about fun for the kids; he knows parents are expected to act like civilized adults and that his behavior was disgraceful.
What he apparently didn’t know that when parents realize they’re getting too involved in the game and that their feelings have spiked far out of proportion to the contest itself, then they need to excuse themselves. If the coach simply had left the gym and walked around outside for a few minutes, I’ll bet he’d have calmed down, regained his perspective, and realized that his feelings were ridiculous.
Instead, he’s now in jail. His life likely has changed forever in a really bad way. He has imprinted in the minds of a gym full of kids a terrible event that they’ll probably never forget. He has embarrassed himself and the CYO organization, the parish where the tournament was held.
It does no good for the high and mighty to add their tsk-tsks to the story. What will do some good is for adults to monitor their emotions and their actions. Kids’ games are too easy a target where we can aim the frustrations in our lives. Go to a game in a foul mood and we can find ourselves unleashing that mood on refs and coaches who really have nothing to do with our feelings.
Even if you’re the coach – just leave. Give yourself a timeout. Regain your composure and your perspective. Come back in when you’re ready to make the game about the kids again, and you’re ready to help give those kids a fun experience rather than a model of exactly how not to act.