The girls on the court just stood around and chatted. Some were talking. Some were laughing. They almost seemed oblivious to what was going on around them.

Meanwhile, off the court, the coaches were yelling at each other. Fans were screaming, at officials, at coaches and at each other. The officials were trying to figure out what just happened.

It was a girls’ basketball game at Poland. A Knights player fouled a Gray-New Gloucester player on a breakaway late in Friday’s game. The officials called the foul but called it on the wrong person. As if that weren’t enough to prompt a little shouting from fans and coaches alike, the physical nature of the foul had everybody worked up. You’d have thought a crime had been committed.

The girls’ on the court just seemed to ignore it, waiting for the chance to get back playing again.

That same night at a boys’ game at Gardiner, another call prompted chaos when the Tigers beat Leavitt on free throws resulting from a foul call after time expired. That controversy had adults coming out of the stands to confront the officials. It got so bad that extra police were called in.

On Saturday, the Edward Little girls hosted Morse in a rematch. For the better part of the season, adults from both teams have been bickering back-and-forth on an online site. Saturday’s game prompted a heated debate as to which student section was most offensive and why. While both fan sections went over the line, the adults have only made a sad spectacle even worse with their nit-picking give -and-take.

What amazes me are the kids that go out and play and do their best in this kind of atmosphere. It makes me wonder why they bother. If the adults around them are going to act so immature, why be part of it.? Why subject themselves to such a hostile environment?

But these kids want to play. They want to enjoy the game. They want to learn from it. They want to enjoy the social aspects that playing sports provide them. Having that experience tainted by the out of control masses, fortunately, hasn’t been enough to discourage them.

That’s what amazed me when I saw both teams during the craziness at Poland last Friday. The girls were talking, smiling and laughing despite all the yelling and shouting off the court. They played the game and played it hard. I talked to a school administrator afterwards. He had noticed the same thing I did. It was the adults that were out of control and causing problems.

 Saturday at Edward Little, both teams were a bit rattled by the boisterous and intense atmosphere, but they settled down and played. They had to shake off the student chants that went from teenage fun to insulting and offensive. They tuned that out and focused on trying to win the game.

I had a conversation with an athletic director the other night about fan behavior this season. My conclusion was that most of the immaturity I’ve witnessed has come from adults. I’ve seen great games and wonderful atmospheres at places like Morse, Hall-Dale, Jay, Nokomis and for the most part, the kids have been fine, on and off the court.

I covered Dirigo’s game at Hall-Dale last week. There was a sizable student section in the balcony. They cheered on their team and had fun doing so. I never heard one thing said that was offensive or over the line. It was a great atmosphere and made for a great game to watch.

I could say the same things about a number of student sections I’ve seen this season. The kids have been fine and been having fun being kids.

It has been the adults that have annoying and juvenile, if not rude and offensive.

There are those that yell at their kids. There are others that yell at their coach. Many more scream at the officials over rules they don’t know or understand. It is the adults that shout things during foul shots, trying to disguise it with a cough or a suggested “get the rebound” – like that’s fooling anybody. I’ve seen adults get worked up and out of control because some other adult from the other team got all worked up and out of control.

This kind of behavior isn’t really anything new. But this season, it seems more than ever, that the adults are acting far worse than the students. Frankly, I’m getting sick of it.

It is common knowledge that kids are immature and are prone to doing stupid things. I did plenty when I was that age. But it is sad when the adults are even worse and that becomes normal behavior.

The kids on the court shouldn’t have to tune that out. They should be able to play the game and not worry about the adults ruining their experience.

It’s a game. It’s a teaching opportunity for these kids, but they shouldn’t have to learn from the poor behavior by the adults around them. Adults should be creating a positive and nurturing environment, not a dangerous, angry, who’s to blame atmosphere.

Frankly, I don’t know what the answer is. School administrators try to keep adults and kids under control, but it can be an impossible task. Between Sports Done Right and other initiatives, the athletes have tried to take their sporting events back, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

Years ago, I wrote about the deteriorating environment that our coaches and kids play under. Nothing seems to have changed since then, and it is disturbing.

People simply need to grow up and get a grip. It’s a game, and they’re just kids. You’d think knowing that would be enough for adults to act appropriately, but obviously, it isn’t.


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