By David Burton
and Rebecca Nussbaum
A program initiated by the Sports Council for next year aims to correct the negative behavior of sports fans and refocus the attention at athletic events onto the athletes.
After CIF officials approached Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas at the girlsâ basketball CIF state finals and the boysâ CIF soccer finals about the unacceptable behavior of students and parents, the program was proposed at the Sports Councilâs April meeting and will be led by science teacher Dietrich Schuhl.
The inappropriate behavior consisted of taunting referees and players on the opposing team.
“It is to the point where it is almost embarrassing for the whole school because everything our student athletes do reflects on Harvard-Westlake as a whole,” Schuhl said.
“We have to ask ourselves if we really want to be viewed in this negative manner,” Schuhl said.
The object of the program is to educate the student body on the behavior appropriate for sports events and enforce the newly clarified rules. However, Chair of Sports Council David Hinden is confident that once the behavioral standards are clearly stated and students understand what is expected of them, students will comply with the rules.
“I think that just about every adult on campus agrees with this policy. Now itâs just about implementing it,” Hinden said.
So far there have been no consequences for fan behavior, but CIF has given us a warning.
Schuhl says that we have a bullâs eye on our back, so we need to fix the situation to avoid consequences in the future.
“The problem with negative cheering is that it escalates. One fan says something and the next fan takes it even further, pushing and testing what they can get away with,” Barzdukas said.
A program will be proposed over the summer to Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra and the Athletic Department by Upper School Visual Arts Department Head Cheri Gaulke, Hinden, mathematics teacher Kanwal Kochar, and Schuhl.
It will be launched next year, but Hinden expects that it will have to be continually monitored over many years.
“We have allowed this negative fan culture to evolve, rather than shape it, and it has grown to the point where we have to take a stand against it,” Barzdukas said.
Negative cheering is commonly shown on television in college and professional sports, so it seems okay to do at the high school level, Schuhl said.
“High school sports are pure,” Barzdukas said. “We should keep it that way.”
Cheers are offensive if they are directed toward a particular player.
Even the airball cheer, which has become essential to the basketball culture, is inappropriate, according to Schuhl.
“The spectacle should be on the field, not in the stands,” Hinden said.