Shameful sports behavior

The death of a youth soccer referee in Utah last week after being punched in the head by a 17-year-old player is a sad commentary on the lack of respect for sports officials everywhere.

Certainly an official dying as a result of a confrontation with a player is rare, but incidents of a less-serious nature happen all-too-often. And it happens locally, too.

Have you ever been to a high school sporting event in the Minot area and witnessed out-of-control behavior by a coach, a player, a parent or other spectator? Chances are you’ve seen an obnoxious parent hurling four-letter words at the umpire of a T-ball game. Or you’ve watched players, fans and coaches berate officials far beyond the normal back-and-forth conversations involved in a high school basketball game.

In Utah, Ricardo Portillo died Saturday, a week after he was punched in the head by a player in the youth soccer game he was officiating. The player was angry after being given a yellow card. Is that an excuse to punch an official?

Sports can help teach young participants a multitude of life lessons, like how to handle winning, how to handle losing, and how to be part of a team. Sports can bring out leadership qualities, but they can also expose some participants as bullies, sore losers and complainers. Unfortunately, self-control is sometimes overlooked by some coaches, parents and players as a skill necessary for success in the sports world.

Think about your own behavior when you attend any sporting event, especially when your child is playing, or when you are playing. If someone videotaped your behavior during the game, would you be proud to watch the video later? Would you be embarrassed? Yes, we know winning is important, but so is sportsmanship. Part of a parent’s role is to help educate children on appropriate behavior in different aspects of life. If as a parent or a player, you can’t control your emotions at a game, what does that say about you?

We love sports and the spirit of competition, and there are constant reminders of that spirit being used to uplift a team, a town or an individual. Those are the sports moments we cherish. Sadly, the tragic death of a referee last week has overshadowed those moments.