I’ve seen quite a bit in more than four years with The Journal News sports department. From thrilling buzzer-beaters to gut-wrenching losses, I’ve seen just about everything there is to see on a court or field.
I’ve also seen when things get ugly; and the only thing worse than some of the ugly things I’ve seen during play are the ugly things I’ve heard.
I’m not talking about when a player, in a moment of frustration, lets out a four-letter expletive, or when two student sections are throwing colorful — but non-profane — jabs at each other.
I’m talking about when fans, specifically parents, yell from the stands.
Oftentimes, the words are directed at officials. Sometimes they’re directed at coaches. Sometimes they’re directed at teenagers like Karen Nomura.
Nomura, a senior volleyball player at Scarsdale, was voluntarily working the junior varsity match last week with two of her teammates after their varsity match when she mistakenly tallied a point for the wrong team.
Within seconds, angry parents were screaming at the 17-year-old.
“I started getting really upset, and I thought it was originally the people from the visitors … were yelling at me, but then I started realizing that it was the Scarsdale parents,” she said. “I think that made me more upset.”
Raiders junior varsity coach Kim Martinez quickly stepped in.
“You are yelling at a child!” she recalled telling the parents.
“Kim did her thing and she yelled at them and I was really thankful for that,” Nomura said. “It made me feel a lot better because what she did was really great.”
Maybe it’s seeing the embarrassment on some of the players’ faces when their parent acts out; maybe it was seeing my younger brother coaching a Little League all-star team and having to deal with unruly parents; or maybe it’s just me maturing over time.
Whatever the reason is, I know that if I’m blessed to have a child one day (and if they choose to play a sport), I will never be that parent.
This coming from someone who would berate his uncles and accuse them of showing favoritism toward their children during backyard baseball games in New City at the age of 10.
I can’t promise that I won’t be that parent, embarrassing their kid with support or dancing in the stands, but I will never be that parent who is screaming like a lunatic at officials, the coach, or players. I’ve seen too much of it in four-plus years of sports coverage to ever think about putting my child through that humiliation.
And I know that’s easy for me to say now, since I have no children, but I don’t think that’s an unreasonable standard for one to set for themselves. As furious as a call may get me, it will pale in comparison to the embarrassment my child feels.
“After the game, since I know a few of the JV players, they were saying that they were going to go home and yell at their own parents,” Nomura said.
Most parents raise their student-athlete children to always display sportsmanship, respect, and a positive attitude.
Most student-athletes never have a problem exemplifying that behavior during play, but even those who do have an occasional slip of the tongue or unflattering moment are still, above all, kids.
You can say they’re young men and women, which is true, but they are still children.
Many cannot vote, get into an R-rated movie, or drive a car. Many still have curfews, live at home and are under the guardianship of elders.
The hope is that these kids know better.
It should be expected of the adults who take care of them.
Even after Nomura broke down in tears, none of the parents apologized to her.
“They could’ve at least said something to me, but they didn’t,” she said. “They obviously saw me crying, after the game, too, but none of them came and that was kind of surprising to me, personally.”
Most officials keep rowdy parents under control, just as most student-athletes harness their own tempers during play. But unfortunately sometimes things still slip through the cracks.
“I was really disappointed,” Nomura said. “I expected more from them, just because they’re Scarsdale parents. They probably know that I’m just trying to help and work for the JV games and I’m basically volunteering to do it.
“If it was their children (working), they would never do that.”
It doesn’t matter that parents were yelling at players from their own school; the point is that parents are yelling at teenagers.
How can we expect kids to respect their peers and elders when the adults overseeing them can’t show them the same respect they seek?
Parents who can’t control their emotions in the stands need to start practicing what they preach, or just shut up all together.