Gamecocks basketball coach is tired of parents' behavior


As the basketball coach at the University of South Carolina, Frank Martin is used to arenas full of raucous fans cheering on their favorite school.

There’s a lot of pressure to win at the highest levels of NCAA sports. Coaches earn millions. Players fight for scholarships or, in some cases, the chance to turn pro.

Martin understands all of that. What he doesn’t understand is why those same pressures seem to trickle down to the elementary school level.

The coach posted on Twitter last month about an incident at his son’s 5th grade basketball game, when a parent ran onto the court to confront a referee.

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“I’ve seen it multiple times now,” Martin told The State newspaper of Columbia, South Carolina. “Parents walking on the court going after a ref, saying all kinds of obscenities just in threatening ways. I’ve seen parents start fights in the stands.”

Stories of over-the-top parents at youth sports are nothing new. But Martin says he’s seeing this type of behavior outside of sports, as well.

“It’s not a basketball thing, it’s a societal thing — where we’re always questioning authority,” Martin said. “We feel it’s our responsibility to get loud and create a scene, especially in front of young kids. When kids see that, they think they can question authority as well.”

Martin said confrontations between parents and officials are worrisome because at some point, he fears such situations are going to escalate beyond merely arguments over a call.

Have you witnessed bad behavior by parents toward officials at a youth sporting event?

“And something really scary can happen,” he said. “That’s my biggest fear. Kids deserve better.”

The growing incidents of verbal abuse of officials at youth and high school sporting events is largely blamed for a growing shortage of referees in many states across the country.

On average, only two of every 10 officials return for their third year of officiating, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Barry Mano, founder and president of the 22,000-member National Association of Sports Officials, told The Washington Post last year that he doesn’t expect the situation to improve anytime soon. More referee shortages will mean more game cancellations, leaving youth and high school sports with a growing problem.

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Some in the officiating community blame the parents, while others blame school administrators who don’t come down on coaches who berate officials.

One veteran official says society, as a whole, is to blame.

“There’s no moral fiber left in our society,” Northern Virginia Football Officials Association commissioner Dennis Hall told The Post. “People think because they paid to get into the game they can say and do anything they want, and they think they know the rules better than the officials because they watch television.”

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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