Las Vegas Sun

August 26, 2019

Currently: 92° — Complete forecast

Sun editorial:

Spate of violence at athletic events is a teachable moment for community

Tonight, high school football teams across the Las Vegas Valley will take the field as Week 7 of the 2018 season plays out. Like every Friday night during the high school season, it’ll be an evening when memories are made.

But too often in the past couple of years, games have been memorable for a very wrong reason.

Three times since last fall, benches-clearing fights have broken out at games between Las Vegas schools. Throw in similar fights at a basketball game and a flag football game, and athletics administrators are understandably sounding an alarm about the situation.

In the aftermath of the most recent fight, during the Liberty-Desert Pines game, officials are looking for solutions to keep tempers from boiling over, including the possibility of assigning security officers to sideline duty throughout games.

It’s good that these discussions are underway. One fight is too many, even though the brawls have occurred at only a small percentage of games. For everyone’s protection — players, coaches, officials and fans — it’s critical to get this problem under control.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions:

1. Coaches at every school and every level of youth football in the valley need to treat the recent rash of fighting as a teachable moment. The lesson: While football is a game of passion and aggression, fighting between whistles or after games is unacceptable. As in any youth sport, the focus of everyone involved should be on the things that make athletics such an important part of building good character among young people, primarily sportsmanship, teamwork and self-discipline.

2. Any adult who gets involved in a fight should be suspended, investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted. The most disturbing facet of the fighting over the past two seasons has been that in at least two cases, adults had to be restrained from entering the fray. Any adult who does so has proven that he or she is not fit to be in a position to influence children.

3. Officials must be especially watchful for taunting and other forms of unsportsmanlike conduct, and must be quick to penalize players and coaches who get out of line.

4. The Nevada Interscholastic Athletics Association should maintain two-game suspensions for fighting, which were handed out after the Liberty-Desert Pines incident. It’s sad that it’s come to this point, because suspensions punish not only the players responsible for problems but innocent people as well — opponents of the teams that are penalized, who are robbed of the opportunity to play. And given that high school seasons are short and most players won’t compete beyond their senior year, it’s even worse. But single-game suspensions obviously weren’t being taken seriously enough. The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association made the right call, and should continue to impose such suspensions.

5. Parents should set a good example. There are all kinds of recommendations on how to do so, but these five from Parenting magazine aren’t bad: Don’t coach your child from the sidelines; never get into a public confrontation with another parent, the officials or the coaches; get your kids to practice/games on time; praise your kid on what they did right, and don’t focus on what they did wrong; and remember that it’s just a game.

6. Administrators should empower and encourage parents and players to come forward with any concerns.

In a contact sport like football, it’s easy for tempers to flare. And given that there are 22 players on the field at all times and dozens more on the sidelines, it’s unreasonable to hold a single person responsible when that happens.

As with what’s happening when the ball is snapped, keeping order is a team effort by everyone involved.

As is, the ugliness that has flared up in Las Vegas is yet another example of our society’s slide toward brutish incivility when adults simply don’t insist on people being decent in their disputes. We see it in our culture and politics, and our children are following our lead.

Let’s just all calm down a bit, shall we?