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Pollard ‘incident’ spotlights a larger problem

I was sitting near a former varsity coach and his wife at a recent game, and the topic came up that fans at high school games are getting more bold, and more nasty, in their comments toward officials.

About four rows above us was a Red Oak parent making a spectacle of himself. Besides thinking every call was wrong on our end of the court, he crossed the line when he shouted, “Keep talking number 40,” targeting a specific player on the opposing team.

These are teenage kids, for crying out loud, and he’s spouting off to them? Nice modeling for your other children. Maybe when your team is getting slammed 60-26, you might clam up a little!

I’d been making some notes all season on the topic, because I concurred that it’s getting very brazen in high school gyms. Probably a combination of witnessing such behavior on the many college games on TV every night, and the escalating over-involvement of some parents in their kids’ activities.

The worst I’d seen this year, besides the nerdy-looking guy from Red Oak who probably never laced up a pair of basketball shoes, was an Atlantic girls basketball parent.

In the first quarter alone he probably yelled out 40 loud instructions to his daughter, or whiny complaints about officiating. Jeff Mostek, operating the official scorebook, turned around once to restore some peace to the situation and said quietly, “Relax.”

“You relax!” the guy retorted. “I have every right to talk to my daughter!”

Well, actually, the traditional sportsmanship message read at the start of almost any sporting event in Iowa encourages you to support your team, and respect the officials and coaches. Know your role.

Supporting the coaches means just that — let them do the coaching.

I’m sure the girl was about to die, hearing her dad’s incessant voice in an otherwise quiet gym, spouting off instructions like she had no idea how to play the game.

She’s been in practice day after day, for a coach who at that moment was seated at the bench trying to convey his own set of instructions. If a coach feels an illegal screen was set against your daughter, I’m sure he’ll let the official know. You don’t have to try to ignite an international incident by standing up and yelling at the top of your lungs about it.

Just like in wrestling. Locally, for example, the coaching staff has a pretty good track record, last time I checked. So do they really need a dad yelling every single move from the stands? Shouldn’t the kid’s ears be trained to hear coach Frain, coach Downing or coach Long?

Weren’t the days of listening to dad at matside left behind at kids tournaments?

One thing I love about the Creston wrestling crowd, besides the consistent strong turnout, is their knowledge base. They know when to cheer, they recognize a special accomplishment because they know who’s good, or who is pulling off an upset.

But knowledge can be abused, too, if it oversteps what successful coaches are trying to do.

Pollard booted

This all brings me to the Jamie Pollard case.

By now you probably know the Iowa State athletic director was ejected from the Colfax-Mingo gym Tuesday night for objecting to an official’s call during the game against Gilbert. His son is a sophomore on the Gilbert team, which lost at Colfax.

School officials said the situation was “overblown” and that Pollard had not been a problem before he was asked to leave by a referee, and that no profanity or yelling was involved. He told the official it was “a horrible call” near the end of the game, and was then asked to leave.

Perhaps it was an overreaction, and maybe Pollard didn’t deserve the embarrassment of ejection.

But he knows better than anyone, and he said so in apologizing, that someone in his position at a state institution can’t put himself in that situation. He’s the role model, the beacon for sportsmanship. It’s like a cop who can’t drive a little tipsy.

So, when a college AD gets ejected, yes, it’s going to get reported and it’s not sensationalism. He’s held to a higher standard.

By the way, have you ever looked around and noticed that those with the best background in the sport often sit quietly, while other “wanna-be’s” do the most chirping? I don’t see much demonstrative behavior from the likes of Steve McCann, Matt Somers, John Thomsen or Todd Nielsen, all with deep backgrounds in the sport.

Bill Taylor, likewise, although he puts the reins on himself by often assuming the role of official scorer. In that spot, you’re prohibited from cheering, or jeering.

I have a ton of respect for the folks who know an erroneous call when they see one, but they let it ride. Nobody out there — coaches, players or officials — claims to be perfect.

•••

Dan Martinez, longtime successful tennis coach at Red Oak and now the Tigers’ girls basketball coach, directed the boys basketball program there, for many years in the Vic Belger and Mike Gerleman era here.

On the way out after Red Oak’s game here last week, he asked me if Creston’s boys team this year is as good as the “McCann and Gerleman” team that won the 1997 state title. I hear that question a lot.

Certainly, there are nights when they approach those memories. That night, for example, Luke Neitzel and Trey Thomsen were the only regular starters in a senior night lineup that bolted to leads of 21-2 and 26-3 over a decent Red Oak team. Zach Powers, Ryan Cook and Bryce McIlravy were part of the unit that started the blowout.

In that respect, I think this year’s team is even deeper than 1997. You can go 12 or 13 deep in legitimate varsity-level players who could represent you well in the Hawkeye 10. That makes for a great practice environment.

And, going into the lion’s den at then No. 1-ranked Nodaway Valley and coming out with a victory was a notch in the belt.

Successive losses to Atlantic and Carroll Kuemper exposed some elements that prohibit me from “declaring” a state title yet. My usual answer is, they have the potential to do special things. I’ve seen that since helping Mike McCabe coach them as seventh-graders.

Tonight’s return engagement at Atlantic will be another measuring stick, as well as next week’s visit to Harlan.

Soon, those matchups could be for all the marbles. By the way, a possible district championship matchup with Atlantic is scheduled for the Nodaway Valley gym. They are great hosts, but I’m not the only one just a little concerned there will be more fans arriving than available seats.

SWCC, the renovated Clarinda gym, or even Red Oak might be better suited as neutral sites able to hold that crowd. But, Bud Legg of the Iowa High School Athletic Association said NV was the school that offered to serve as host.

If that game materializes and they keep it in Greenfield, get there early!

Contact the writer:

Twitter: @larrypeterson

Email: lpeterson@crestonnews.com

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