This morning I fired up my trusty news app, and started seeing what the world was up to. I went into the sports section and was compelled to read the story with this title: “Referee and coach brawl at second-graders game.” According to the Tennessean, “a police report says that as [the coach] was leaving the court he grabbed [the referee], and then [the referee] responded by pushing the coach away and punching him in the face.” Many of the parents commented anonymously that they were appalled at the violence at this second-grade basketball game.
Here is the kicker. The referee is also a middle school teacher, and the coach is married to an assistant principle at a local high school. Both of these men should know how to behave in front of young children, but they clearly lost their cool. The most troubling thing is that many of the young basketball players will remember this incident, and the parents will definitely remember this bad experience. The question is – how could two adults get into a fistfight in front of second-graders? It may sound rough, but I blame the official in this situation.
I have a quote that I read before every game it goes, “we as officials are neither inside the game, as the players are, nor outside the game, as the fans are, but that the game runs through us. Like a filter, our job is to strain out the impurities, making it cleaner, and fairer.” The official who decided to push and then punch the coach, forgot that his sole purpose in life during that game was to make the game better. He forgot that he has to be above his emotions, that he must push away his desire for retribution.
I will admit, there have been times during games both youth and high school where I have wanted to take a swing at a coach or drop a curse in his general direction. However, that quote stops me in my tracks every time I feel anger swelling in my chest. It reminds me that the coach is not yelling at me as a person. He is yelling at the stripes. Once I remember that ever-present fact, I return to a calm state of mind where I can focus on making the game better for all involved.
So to all referees and aspiring zebras – remember to do your best and not make all of us look like a donkey.