Matt Lindsay has been a high school football coach for 26 years and Bishop Luers High Schools athletic director for 21, so hes seen a lot of fan behavior at high school sporting events.
And it makes him happy when he sees fans behaving well – as he did this month after the 10-7 fourth-quarter victory by Snider High Schools Panthers football team over his schools Knights in their opener.
Walking to the buses, you had to walk through maybe a thousand people, and I saw fans congratulating (players) from both sides, in both uniforms, he says.
But hes also seen his share of the opposite, and both he and Russ Isaacs, Sniders athletic director and football coach from 1976 to 2008, agree that sportsmanship should reign among players and fans alike.
We need to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. If we frame every play like that – if we make a big play, be humble, and if they make a great play, be gracious – thats what its about, Issacs says.
So, with many scholastic sports seasons upon us, we asked Lindsay and Issacs what they would like fans to remember when they go to games.
Theyre called student-athletes for a reason. Believe it or not, theyve got more to do than football, Lindsay says – things such as chemistry homework, work-study placements, taking SATs and filling out college applications. Support them for being able to juggle balls in the air – on and off their sports stage.
You dont know everything the coach does. Some people think they know everything going on when they dont. Even if they played the game, theyre not involved in every game, Lindsay says. They dont know what a coach is trying to accomplish with a particular play or a particular kid.
Mistakes happen. Nobody wants to make mistakes, Issacs says, pointing out that not only players but also coaches and referees arent perfect. The nature of sport is that not all is going to go well all of the time, he says, adding: Theyre doing their best.
Sometimes, they can hear you. You dont hear individuals at a Notre Dame game when theres 80,000 people yelling in a big stadium, Lindsay says. But if youre on the sidelines of a middle school soccer game or in a gym for a high-school wrestling meet, sometimes you can pick out everything individual people say, he says.
Coaches have thick skins. Players, maybe not so much. Lindsay says coaches learn to shrug off derogatory fan comments. But players are teenagers, he says, and they may take a comment to heart. Says Issacs: No adult should ever make derogatory comments about a high school athlete. Theres absolutely no place for it. Its unacceptable and it should not occur.
Check profanity at the gate. In other words, screaming Awesome! is good enough, without that other word. If someone is being abusive and were confronted about it, were going to confront that person and remove that person, if necessary, Issacs says.