Act your age: A message to parents of student-athletes

Azza Abdelziz, left on bleachers, and Jocelyn Picache cheer for their sons on the Fort Lee basketball team in Fort Lee, N.J. (Amy Newman/The Record/TNS)
Azza Abdelziz, left on bleachers, and Jocelyn Picache cheer for their sons on the Fort Lee basketball team in Fort Lee, N.J. (Amy Newman/The Record/TNS)

Fans are a large part of team spirit; they fill the team with confidence and excitement. However, sometimes fans can be overbearing, making it difficult to enjoy the game and support the athletes, which is a big reason fans attend games.

Two weeks ago I went to the Weber State University women’s basketball game against Southern Utah University. It was an electrifying game with the Wildcats coming away with an upset victory over the Thunderbirds. What wasn’t as appealing were the fans who came up from Cedar City to cheer on Southern Utah.

Throughout the entire game, every single call or play made was met with loud jeers and heckling from what appeared to be parents of some of the Southern Utah players. Every time the whistle would blow and a foul was called against the Thunderbirds, jeers could be heard coming from the group of Thunderbird fans telling the referees to focus on the game and not their nasal hygiene. When a call wasn’t made that these fans felt should have been made, they would not-so-kindly remind referees that they have a small metal object hanging around their neck called a “whistle,” and that they should be using it.

Although this kind of behavior is not unusual, and I have heard of Wildcat fans doing the same thing, there comes a time where you cross the line from acceptable behavior to ridiculous. The parents I saw at the Southern Utah game crossed that line.

At virtually every level of sports there are aggressive parent-fans. In Canada, the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association threatened to ban spectators from all youth hockey games earlier this month because of the verbal abuse coming from parents and other family members that was being directed at referees, coaches and players. In another incident in Canada, the father of a hockey player was sentenced to a 12-month probation after making death threats towards his son’s 10-year-old opponent last February.

What these parents don’t realize, or perhaps don’t care about, is that what they are saying or doing at these games is often embarrassing for their children.

In a story from CBS New York about an angry dad who went on a profanity-laced tirade against a referee at a youth soccer game, one young player was quoted as saying that kids dread when their parents lose their tempers at games. The same player said that it was embarrassing for him and everyone on his team when it happens and that he thinks parents need to calm down.

Parents: You all should know better. Especially if you are old enough to have kids playing sports at the collegiate level. There comes a point in time in which you need to act your age and act maturely. You aren’t some loudmouthed college student anymore; you need to be setting the example for how others should act. Keep on cheering your kids — I wholeheartedly support that — but knock off the sophomoric heckling and verbal abuse.

Growing up, I was the oldest of four boys, and as is often the case with brothers we would get into fights over petty arguments. Since I was the oldest, I was expected to set the example of appropriate behavior. When I would get caught up in yet another stupid fight with one of my brothers, my parents would always ask me this question, “How old are you? Are you 12 or are you 3?”

So, to the parent-fans who act like petulant children I ask: How old are you?

Start acting your age.