As I watched game-after-game this past weekend at the IMG Academy’s 7v7 National Championship, one thing dawned on me that is growing into more and more of a problem at these types of events.
Ah, you thought this is where I would start ranting about 7-on-7 offseason football becoming a feeding ground for the leeches who prey on amateur athletes. There are problems, of course, with those hoping to latch on to young stars, but it’s far less than what many would lead you to believe.
My issues this weekend, however, were not with wannabe agents or scoundrels seeking profit. It was the actions of fans, friends, family members, parents — and worst of all, coaches — of the participants.
These are adults who come to these events and act like children.
Actually, my apologies to children everywhere. That statement is inaccurate. None of the children involved in IMG’s 7-on-7 event behaved as poorly as the adults.
As I found myself gravitating to the middle-school fields to check out the competition, it dawned on me that there was a huge difference in the level of sideline obedience.
I was reminded that the charm of children lies in their naivete. Most children are good sports, equally courteous to their opponents, whether beating them or losing to them.
The parents of the younger participants were also somewhat calm onthe sidelines. If any got out of line, they were put in check by others. They were in public and were a representative of not only their particular team of interest, but also of their child.
When I crossed the fields back to the high-school tournament, I was continuously embarrassed as an adult, as a parent, as a human being. I watched parents and fans and coaches screaming at referees, running on the field like maniacs, hurling insults they would never say in front of their mothers.
I even watched as one adult, who I can only hope was not a parent, constantly taunting players from the opposing team. He was calling them names, telling them how bad he thought they were and how they should not even be on the field with those players for whom he was “rooting.”
I had to change sidelines or I was going to say something.
I’m not perfect. I’m no angel. I’ve certainly embarrassed my mother. But I also know how to act, I hope, when I am in public and when I am in situations involving oft-impressionable teens. Yes, teen-agers will act like those around them, those supposed role models of adult influence.
And so it was no surprise that the type of behavior on the sidelines began to trickle over onto the field of play. We expect back-and-forth taunting and trash-talking and other shenanigans during athletic events. It’s accepted, to an extent, when passion and emotions are high.
That acceptance, however, has reached embarrassing new levels.
We’re reminded of that when LeBron James or Dwight Howard whine and cry and flap their arms in public outcry because someone might have fouled them.
So how is 13-year-old Johnny supposed to act when his mom comes flying out of her lawn chair, his uncle is screaming obscenities and his coach is half-way up the field having to be restrained from going after a referee.
Sometimes, however, cooler heads prevail.
I saw one quarterback walk up to his coach and say, “C’mon coach, let’s just play.”
To him I say, “Thank you.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun