Mum's the word in Arundel sports

2-day ban on banter sidelines parents

January 23, 2000|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

"Quiet! Quiet, please!"

You'd have thought Rudy Brown was running the library at Marley Middle School in Glen Burnie -- not the gymnasium during a basketball game.

"Silence in the bleachers!" the gym supervisor shouted yesterday, threatening to plug parents' mouths with lollipops if they refused to stay silent.

Some parents and coaches had grabbed suckers on their own before the game, knowing that the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks' "Silent Saturday" would be too much for them to endure without assistance.

Recreation officials banned all verbal expression at youth sports in the county yesterday and today. They sought to send a good-humored message to parents to calm down during games. Organizers of youth sports locally and nationally increasingly have taken issue with overzealous grown-ups who take the fun out of youth leagues with unsportsman-like conduct, such as booing, criticizing the players and referees and pressuring the youths to perform.

Most spectators yesterday took "Silent Saturday" in the spirit the recreation department intended, but some said they would not come back if the county tries it again.

Players and referees were the only people allowed to make noise. Spectators were prohibited from cheering, clapping, yelling -- in short, from making any sound.

Debbie Haynes of Pasadena silently waved a "GO, LAKE SHORE" sign in her right hand and a "We want a basket!" sign in her left. More active spectators used their own dialect of sign language, fashioning instructions with their hands. Others sat on their hands and struggled not to mutter a word.

"This is terrible. They don't want the parents to cheer for their children," Paula Upshaw said.

"The parents are being punished because we can't cheer for our children," said Upshaw, whose husband, James, coaches their son's team, the Maryland City Mustangs.

The gag order appeared even more trying for Mark Walker Sr., whose son played against the Mustangs.

Walker tried to send signals to his son, Mark Walker Jr., 14, a forward for the Severna Park Green Hornets. The elder Walker looked like a coach signaling plays from the bench. He snapped his fingers, pointed, slapped his legs and scratched his head.

"It stunk," the elder Walker said of the silence rule after his son's team lost, 41-35. "I think it takes away from the game."

Coaches found themselves as frustrated as some parents.

"I found it a little hard to coach. Basically, you're sitting back with your hands tied and whatever happens, happens," said Herb Smith, a commissioner for the basketball league and coach of the Gambrills, Odenton Recreational Council Wildcats.

While spectators sat quietly in the bleachers, players cheered on themselves and their teammates.

"Good ball movement," Dominick Reid, 11, of Pasadena, shouted from the bench as his team passed the ball around.

Dominick said later that he enjoyed the fact that none of the spectators was yelling at the players, although he would have liked to have heard some cheering.

"You don't know if they want you to win or not," he said.

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