CIF reprimands, poor fan conduct lead to broad sportsmanship review

By Austin Block

In response to CIF citations for fan and athlete misconduct last year, the Sportsmanship and Fan Behavior Review Committee recently developed a list of ideas to improve ethics in athletics.

The committee presented these ideas, still in an early draft proposal form, to the Faculty Advisory Committee, the Prefect Council, and the Sports Council in the weeks before the first day of school. All three of the consulted groups have offered feedback.

The committee will also consult with the Student Athletic Advisory Council at its first meeting in early September.

No new rules have been instituted. The ideas remain only ideas and may or may not be implemented.

“This is not something that a committee is doing [unilaterally],” committee chair Dietrich Schuhl stressed. “We’re trying to make this a community effort.”

The first citation occurred in early March, when the boys’ soccer team and its coach were cited by CIF at the CIF final in Downey. Team members had to write CIF an apology and the soccer team was barred by the athletic department from participating in overnight tournaments this season. Later in the same month, fans at the girls’ basketball state championship game were cited for poor conduct. The committee was created shortly thereafter.

“This [poor behavior at athletic events] is not the common thing but it’s not the uncommon thing either,” Schuhl said. “Citations and the notification from CIF came because the main officials for CIF were there and were like ‘wow, this is unacceptable.’ If the main CIF officials had come to all of our other basketball games they would have said ‘wow, this is unacceptable’ for many of our basketball games, and soccer games, and football and whatever.”

The committee submitted 21 points in its initial draft, dividing them into four categories: ideas for the administration, for students, for parents, and for athletes and coaches.

“These are ideas that we’ve gathered from talking to schools in our area, talking to various groups around campus, looking at the NCAA guidelines, the CIF guidelines for sportsmanship,” Schuhl said.

After presenting the ideas to FAC and the Sports Council, Schuhl asked each member of both groups to rank the 21 provisions in terms of priority. Schuhl will compile this data and determine which points are considered most important. He said the committee will then bring the results back to FAC and “see which ones we administratively think we can do best and fastest.”

The committee report said that the administration should publicly announce its commitment to sportsmanship to all coaches and faculty and remind the faculty that “adults are responsible for immediately correcting inappropriate behavior by students at all school events.”

It also suggested the administration recognize incidences of good sportsmanship. It hopes to support positive, enthusiastic fan behavior by establishing a School Pep Band, integrating the Fanatics and cheerleaders, and instituting a “‘Back to School’ Pep-Rally/Tailgate” for the first home football game of the year. Another point opened the possibility of a reorganization of the Fanatics that would add student-elected positions and faculty advisers for the fan group.

“I think in a lot of ways we can make it a lot more fun,” Schuhl said. “Let’s help these guys, but let’s do it constructively.”

The second section of the report provides ideas for athletes and coaches. It mentions that all students and coaches could complete a short online sportsmanship program. It suggested that athletes and students could make a sportsmanship pledge at the beginning of the year, and that coaches and team captains let parents and athletes know in writing the team’s sportsmanship expectations. Other ideas include asking coaches to “make time for their team to cheer on another [Harvard-Westlake] team” and to videotape games to “review and respond to acts both positive and negative sportsmanship with their athletes.” The committee also brought up the possibility of a Captains Committee to improve student leadership and sportsmanship.

Athletic Director Terry Elledge said he believes poor fan behavior is a much bigger issue than poor sportsmanship.

“It’s the behavior of the people that are watching the games [that is the problem] no matter what you’re talking about,” Elledge said. “I hear people out of line at softball games, I hear people out of line at soccer games, I hear people out of line at baseball games, so I think that is the bigger issue in my opinion.”

The committee finished the draft with five last points, four for students and one for parents.

It highlights the need to announce “sportsmanship expectations” to the student body at the beginning of the year and suggests that a student reiterate these expectations before all home games. It says the Fanatics could, in conjunction with the student body, write a “Fan Code of Behavior” to be posted around our athletic facilities. It also hopes to inform parents of sportsmanship issues and set up standards for parental behavior at games as well.

“This is not a final decision. We are consulting the Prefect Council, Student Athletic Advisory, Sports Council, faculty and all that,” Schuhl said. “The best thing we can do at this point is to say that this is a discussion and this is something we’re working on and you are going to hear about it throughout the year.”

Head Prefect Melanie Borinstein ’11 said the Prefect Council completely supports the general goals and intentions of the committee but has mixed feelings about the specific suggestions.

“I think we found certain things that we think would be more effective or realistic in it. There’s a wide range of what we agree and disagree with and I think that’s why we’re glad they came to us to talk about it because we are the students’ representatives,” Borinstein said. “I think that we’re just going to give our input and they can do what they want with that. We have a wide range of feelings toward it… None of the proposals are bad there just are ones that are maybe more effective and more likely to be liked by the student body.”

Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas expressed his support for the committee and its draft proposal as well.

“I think that virtually every school in the country would love to have our fan support and our sportsmanship,” Barzdukas said. “This is just an opportunity for us to just take a look and see what we can improve.”

“When you look at Harvard-Westlake, you think of Harvard-Westlake as being at the top,” Elledge said. “I don’t feel we’ve been at the top there [sportsmanship and fan behavior] for a while and I think we should be, we can be, we ought to be. Everybody looks to us for our athletic success, our academic success, why shouldn’t they look to us for a model for behavior?”