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Apodaca: Threats against NHHS coach illustrative of bigger issues

March 30, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

Sometimes an unsavory news event gives us the opportunity to peel back a layer on an issue that deserves scrutiny.

Such is the case with the disturbing reports that Larry Hirst, Newport Harbor High School's longtime boys' basketball coach, has been the subject of violent threats.

Although police are still investigating, school officials have temporarily suspended the basketball program, and have indicated that parents or students associated with the team might have been the source of the threats. Hirst, who also teaches at Newport Harbor, has resigned his coaching post.

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However the case is resolved, it's unfortunately all too easy to believe that parents or kids are capable of such ugly behavior revolving around youth sports.

Call me blasphemous, call me un-American, but when it comes to sports, I think we've lost our collective minds.

From dads who start planning their children's athletic careers while they're still in utero to a professional football program that paid players to injure opponents to the jaw-dropping $2.15 billion that Magic Johnson and other investors agreed to pay for the Dodgers, sports-induced insanity is as embedded in our culture as hot dogs and lemonade stands.

But what's really perplexing is the outrageous behavior of parents when it comes to youth sports.

You'd think that activities involving kids would bring out the best in us. Instead, many of us morph into demanding, petulant, excuse-making lunatics when children's athletics are concerned.

To be sure, youth sports, from AYSO to club teams to high-school programs, can provide a wonderfully positive experience for kids and their parents. At their best, they impart self-esteem, camaraderie and good citizenship, as well as foster values of perseverance and teamwork.

It doesn't always work out that way, though. Too often, sports are a catalyst for unseemly behavior, unrealistic expectations and ruthlessness masquerading as competitiveness.

We push our kids to perform, scream at referees and chastise coaches for perceived slights. We counsel our children to respect authority while betraying our own contempt, and handle defeat like 5-year-olds.

Most of the time, this behavior doesn't rise above the level of boorishness. But sometimes it escalates into violent, criminal behavior, and then we all wonder how things went so horribly astray.

Just to be straight, when I refer to "we," I'm looking straight in the mirror.

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