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Think before you speak

By Staff | Dec 20, 2013

Rugby High School athletes have a lot going for them right now. The boys basketball team is ranked No. 4 in Class B and is a favorite to return to the state tournament as the reigning Region 6 champion. The girls squad is young, but teeming with talent and will surprise some taller teams with their relentless play. Our hockey players are on a roll with their Bottineau teammates and the Braves boast the state’s top two players in goals and overall points.

That’s a heck of a lot to cheer about, but are we rooting for our athletes in a responsible manner? On the whole, absolutely. RHS faithful get loud when the Panthers score and should encourage each other to be even louder when the opponents have the ball or shoot free throws. That’s fair game.

The problem tends to lie in a few voices that seem to forget: 1. The referees really do not care what you have to offer; 2. The game is not about you – it’s about the young players, who practice every day to achieve their goals.

I started covering high school athletics when I was 18 years old and there’s seldom been a week since then that I haven’t taken in a game or two. I’ve seen some of the best and some of the worst. North Dakota has some pretty smart, passionate fans, and I’ll take that any day over the wretched softball parents in Virginia (or those Philadelphia Eagles fans I’ve unfortunately sat near).

It is discouraging when a select few individuals sour what should be an opportunity to celebrate sport at one of its purest levels.

I will concede that there is some human instinct in disagreeing with the officiating and we all want to jump up when a player is fouled hard. But nitpicking each whistle and settling on a “these-refs-hate-us” mindset in the first quarter benefits nobody. The officials are not out to slight any team and, though they are paid, they sacrifice time with their families to ensure our student-athletes have the resources to compete.

Head coaches and captains are allowed to ask the officials questions and that right should be limited to those few designated individuals. Rugby has very capable coaches and we should let them do their job. They are smart and know the game better than the average fan.

There is also no place – NO PLACE – for parents and other grown adults to yell at players. There will always be a few punks on the opposing teams. They kind of make your blood boil with their attitudes and mannerisms, but let it be. What good are we when we take that bait and shout at an adolescent?

Rugby is better than that. I’ve seen that demonstrated every day since I moved here, with never-ending welcoming spirits and an incredible outpouring of support.

Most athletes can tune out the crowd because there’s far too much going in the field of play. That doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of what goes on. Let’s avoid embarrassing them and our community.

Be loud, be passionate, but be reasonable. And Go Panthers!

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