Spotlight On Sportsmanship Turns Up Stains


January 18, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

While we all closely watch the war in the Persian Gulf, let's take alook at the state of high school sports in the county with Coordinator of Physical Education Paul Rusko.

First of all, this sportsmanship priority started by the county this year in conjunction with the National Federation of High Schools sounds nice and looks good in print, whether it be on posters or pamphlets.

Certainly the intent is honorable, but does it get results? I don't think so, and I don't understand why we need to bring attention toa problem that isn't there. However, now that we have professed the sportsmanship initiative, we have had a few problems.

It's true there have been some major problems throughout the country that need addressing, but Anne Arundel County was not among those having sportsmanship problems. Yet, this push for sportsmanship was put on, and at games schools have been giving out a page on the "Code of Conduct at Athletic Events."

The code lists 11 rules. Thank goodness, no really ugly situations have happened in the county this year, but there have been a good number of minor incidents that could have led to majorincidents if not quelled.

"We want the coaches, players, parents,everybody concerned to look at it as a game," Rusko said about high school athletic events. "The competitiveness this year has been a little more extreme than usual."

He was referring to several fights involving county teams that have resulted in game termination and ejections. Players ejected from a game for fighting are prohibited from playing the next game. A violation can result in a suspension.

"We don't want anyone making excuses for kids' throwing punches. We won'ttolerate that and have to discourage it," Rusko said.

Youths' fighting can lead to free-for-alls that include parents and fans, and that's the last thing anybody wants.

Rusko also addressed the concerns of the Board No. 23 of Officials, the group that works county games.

"Their commissioner has complained to me about some problems his men have had this season because of the competitiveness, and we have addressed those complaints," he said. "Hopefully things will run smoother, but as you know, there seems to be a whole mental attitude about officials in not only this county but the country."

Rusko knows a lot more referee badgering is happening in this, the year of the sportsmanship priority. While he didn't say it and the officials aren't allowed to comment publicly, I think we can read between the lines and expect to see the refs "T'ing-up" (charging a technical) more coaches.

And they won't penalize the coaches just for the sake of being cute, but to make sure order is maintained. Let's face it, thoseof us who attend enough games know that not all coaches engage in verbal battles with the refs, but a certain few excel at it and get away with it.

"That's what we want to stop because it's gotten out ofhand this year, with some of these coaches thinking they are Bobby Knight (the volatile Indiana coach)," one official said. "I think someof the coaches watch too much TV and think they are in the big time."

I think the guy is right, and let me say that this approach is not just reserved for the boys basketball coaches either. There are a few girls coaches in the county who can flame a ref pretty good, too.

Of course, at the same time, the ref has to remember he's not in the NCAA either and make sure he's not trying to impress everyone with his knowledge by nit-picking and blowing his whistle until the pea falls out.

Case in point: the Chesapeake at Arundel boys game Tuesday night. Chesapeake went to the foul line 55 times, while Arundel took 24 free throws. That's 79 foul shots in a high school game -- andthat's ridiculous.

Let the kids play, that's what we all want. Wedon't want the refs to become the show, and that's what happens in asituation like that.

That's the kind of garbage that causes coaches to go off on the zebras. It definitely should be avoided.

A couple of other things involved are the old turning the other way, whichgives one team a break while establishing a double standard, and crowd control.

It was in the Broadneck at Annapolis game Jan. 4 that the above came to light. Broadneck got off the hook despite violatingthe pre-game no-dunking rule, and the crowd control at Annapolis wasnot up to snuff.

In their warm-ups, the Bruins were dunking with the refs and Rusko in their presence, yet no technical was given.

One of the refs walked over to the other side of the gym, where I wassitting, and a kid asked him, "Aren't you supposed to give a technical for that (dunking)?"

The ref replied, "I just got out here and have to see it first."

When he was reminded that they dunked at least twice in his presence, he uttered something like, "They can up toa certain amount of time before the game."

That was a cop-out. Nodunking is allowed before a game.

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