A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about parents behaving badly, how it changes the dynamics on a team, all that fun stuff. That same week, I was greeted by the above video: Players Behaving Badly.

First, I was at a loss for words. I get the heat of the moment stuff, especially as a teenager. You do and say some ignorant things as you regret later, but right then, it felt so good. Heck, I know adults who can’t get beyond that attitude.

But seriously, so assault a player in the handshake line? This speaks to greater problems in our society than just impulsive teenaged behaviors.

We’ve lost that ability to win and lose gracefully. Our basketball teams have been on both ends of lopsided scores. If we are winning by a lot, we’ll slow the pace down, we’ll practice certain pieces of our offense, we’ll make a certain number of passes the requirement, we’ll pull back any fast breaks or run-outs. It drives the girls crazy because when they smell blood in the water, they want to go all in. And I get it. BUT, that’s not how we play. We don’t play to embarrass or humiliate the opponent (though it is SOOOO tempting with a few). That’s not why we play.

On the flip side, if we are getting just destroyed, we work to find those little things we are doing well. Someone played good help defense. Someone else did a great job of blocking out. A player shot at the basket rather than dribble endlessly. John Wooden said:

Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.

I have zero time for coaches who don’t pull in the reins. None. What does it teach your teams? I’ll tell you: nothing. Our job is to stop you and if your team is physically better than us, there’s nothing we can do. If your team has demonstrated that you can make 20 layups, what does it do other than to drive that fact home? A lack of empathy is demonstrated.

I don’t know the story behind the punch, but I see two things happening. One, coaching. If you know your player is not in a good place, you put him (or her) in a place where you can intervene in a second. Either that or you send the player to the locker room with an assistant. Two, with parents behaving badly, comes players behaving badly. This is a giant assumption on my part, but too many times if the parents are acting out in the stands, the player will act out on the floor. Now, I’ve never seen that kind of behavior, but it signals a breaking down of the norms of society. I’m angry, my parents have been yelling and screaming their heads off, so why can’t I act this way too??

I really try to find that scrap of goodness in each blog I write. I’ve got a player who won’t leave the gym on a miss. I like to close with a positive. I’m having a tough time finding that in this video and story. The player was arrested and charged with willful injury and could get several years in jail because of his actions.

The only positive I could think of is that it may bring focus back to the trash talking during games and how that needs to be tapped back down. I’m all a little talking to go on, but if this was the end result, adding an intensional foul to trash talking, kicking out the trash talker, all those might not be a bad idea.

In the end, it’s a black eye for the sport and for the state. A state where “Iowa NIce” is trotted out to appease the masses, Iowans aren’t always a nice bunch.

However, we can always hope that parents continue to do their part, being good spectators, allowing coaches, officials, and the other team to do what they need to do. Otherwise, imagine watching your son or daughter’s games on YouTube or some other streaming service because spectators weren’t allowed in the gym? Covid showed us this could be done.

And I’d imagine, it’s closer than you think! 😦