From the Principal’s Desk
Spectator Behavior Guide All Sports
Accepting behavioral norms of the culture without subjecting them to biblical evaluation, is perhaps one of the greatest challenges confronting Christian school athletic programs. At Harford Christian School, coaches are expected to “hold the bar high” for themselves and their athletes in the area of Christian conduct. Demeanor towards opponents and referees, discriminating between lawful/unlawful tactics to gain an advantage, retaliatory fouls, verbal responses, and a host of other competition-related behaviors are items for continual discussion and instruction. While the coach has a significant influence upon player conduct, his ability to implement the same influence upon spectators is greatly diminished. Spectators are, however, a component of the game day context and efforts should be made to educate them regarding their influence and responsibilities. Spectators often set the tone of a contest, which can range from hostile and angry to friendly and supportive, and anything in between. It is worth noting that actions and words of spectators can sometimes incite well-meaning athletes to respond inappropriately on the field. The great difficulty is that spectators typically do not view themselves as “under any authority” while viewing a sporting event. For that reason, this paper is a plea for cooperation and compliance with biblical spectator standards.
The purpose of this paper is to set forth expected behaviors for HCS spectators as related to Harford Christian School athletics. While attempting to be concise, explanations are provided in order to give the rationale behind each point. The Spectator Behavior Guide is organized with five words. Note that each point corresponds with the letters of the word “S-P-O-R-T.”
The choice of word here is purposefully biblical. Christ instructed His followers that they were to be a savory salt. He went on to say that if the salt loses its savor, it may as well be thrown in a pathway to be “trodden under foot.” Salt has a purifying and preserving effect upon whatever it comes into contact with. HCS fans should have a purifying effect upon those around them by behaving distinctively Christian. If well-behaved and disciplined athletes can positively stand out in contrast to “normal” player conduct, then well-mannered and self-restrained spectators can have the same effect in the context of game day. Spectators who exhibit the behaviors outlined in this document WILL stand out in contrast to what is natural behavior. Spectator conduct spirals “downward” when opposing fans banter with one another. In other words, poor spectator behavior feeds on poor spectator behavior and only grows worse. In contrast, proper spectator behavior can, and often does, positively impact the environment. That is not to say that behaving positively ALWAYS guarantees that other spectators will follow in step, however, consistent positive spectator behavior typically has a positive influence in the group dynamic of fans. Savory spectator behavior requires diligence and effort and pays big dividends.
HCS spectator conduct should not be affected by circumstances of the competition. A wise father once stated that a man’s character is revealed during adversity. Adversity is not limited to players in competition. Spectator adversity is real. Atrocious officiating happens. HCS players and coaches are capable of making “bad” tactical decisions that affect the outcome of the contest. Players from the opposing team may use unethical tactics in seeking to gain an advantage or to intimidate. Opposing spectators may be rude and obnoxious. All too often these competition realities can turn a well-intentioned and mild group of spectators into an unruly and retaliatory mob. Maintain the higher ground no matter what the circumstances! Mom’s emotions are especially vulnerable when her “precious offspring” has been victimized by an opponent or when a referee fails to call a foul committed against her “baby.” In the big picture of game day, a spectator losing control over his emotions does not accomplish anything right or productive. Referees are not swayed by an angry mom or dad. Referees are human and capable of making judgment errors. In my years of coaching youth sports, I have rarely, if ever, observed a referee “cave” to a griping or irate parent. More often, the referee may have a mom or dad removed from the game venue for “out-of-control” behavior. Poise is a demonstration an even temperament is what the Bible refers to as meekness, which means strength under control. Poise never allows match circumstances to excuse poor spectator behavior.
HCS spectators should ALWAYS focus on the positive. Finding the “silver lining” in every circumstance, while not easy to do, is appropriate conduct. If a goalkeeper gives up an accidental goal, find a way to encourage that goalkeeper. Don’t forget the many good saves that have been made before the “oops.” If basketball players are missing lay-ups, they don’t need to be verbally reminded that they should have scored on those opportunities. Players know when they “blow it” and don’t forget . . . making shots in the heat of a contest is not as easy as it looks. A good speaking rule to follow is this - if what you are going to say is not positive or constructive . . . DON’T SAY IT! Examples of positive and/or constructive comments are listed below.
|+ “C’mon guys we need to hustle!”||+ “That’s ‘ok’ keeper, shake it off!”|
|+ “See the pass guys!”||+ “Ladies, watch that off-side line!”|
|+ “Let’s win those 50/50 balls!”||+ “Let’s play good defense”|
Negative comments listed here line up with their corresponding positive comment above.
|- “You’re not hustling guys!”||- “Wow . . . keeper you have to make that save|
|- “Quit dribbling and pass the ball!”||- “Quit with the off-sides!”|
|- “We are not winning the 50/50 balls!”||- “C’mon you have to play defense!”|
When it comes to verbal comments, there is always a way to state things positively. During match play, any criticism directed toward athletes needs to fall within the domain of the coach. The fan base needs to be an impetus of OPTIMISTIC cheering. Remember that athletes want to succeed more than you could possibly want them to succeed. Sometimes they are successful and sometimes they fail (just like all of us). Remaining positive, regardless of success/failure, boosts confidence and ultimately enhances success.
Parent (Spectator) to Parent (Spectator):
Please follow this rule –Respond or speak as if every player’s mother were sitting next to you. The fact is . . . they may be, and often are, sitting within ear range of your comment or eye range of your body language. I am amazed at how many spectators make negative comments directed at an actual player (by name) and in turn, offend a family member or close friend of the player being criticized. Put yourselves in the shoes of the dad who hears a spectator negatively comment about his son or daughter missing a shot, or dribbling too much, or lacking skills. This is why Optimism is important! If all your comments and body language are constructive and positive, you should not have to worry about others being offended by what you say or show. It is worth remembering, however, that even a neutral comment directed towards a player may result in being a hurtful comment to another. For instance, Goalkeeper X misses making a save and a parent states to Goalkeeper Y’s (who is on the bench) mother that Goalkeeper Y would have made that save. While being complimentary to Goalkeeper Y and his mother, the comment is hurtful to Goalkeeper X’s mom or friends within hearing range. Respect for every other spectator, regardless of their conduct, is very important.
Parent (Spectator) to Coach:
Coaches tend to have thick skin when it comes to criticism. “Arm-chair” quarterbacks are a “dime a dozen.” Engrained in the cultural norm is the idea that criticizing and second guessing the coach is acceptable conduct. Hey . . . that’s what ESPN is all about! Coaches are not perfect and do not make perfect substitution rotations. Nor do they implement perfect strategies for each game. Don’t forget, however, that the coach is vested with the responsibility of making those decisions and must live with the consequences, while spectator criticism is free, with no consequences to the one doing the criticizing. In other words, if you are not in the coach’s shoes don’t criticize and second guess his decisions. Is that to suggest that coaches should be exempt from all criticism? . . . certainly not. There is a proper time and place to have discourse with a coach . . . that time and place is not in the bleachers surrounded by fans (and maybe his wife).
Parent (Spectator) to Players:
Since the need for positive spectator conduct toward one’s own team members has already been addressed, consider spectator behavior towards opposing players. Remember, the kids in the opposing uniforms are just that . . . “kids.” They are not the enemy. In some instances they may be ill-mannered and mean-spirited, but they are still kids who need to see adults modeling proper behavior. Should spectators cheer when an opposing player receives a technical foul or yellow card? Absolutely not! If the technical foul or card came from unsportsmanlike conduct, that is a time when spectators should sit in sober silence and pray that lessons will be learned from consequences. How easy it is to revel in an opposing team’s failures or earned penalties. Not wanting to be misunderstood, the following clarification is offered. When an ill-mannered and unlawful player or team receives proper justice in the form of penalty, it is acceptable to find satisfaction that misbehavior was met with consequence, but to cheer or become verbal in that instance, is not a proper manifestation of respect. Conversely, excellent play from opponents should be complimented. There is nothing traitorous about complimenting individuals or team play from the opponent. Quality play should be appreciated regardless of the color of uniform. Rather than viewing this as “cheering for the other team,” view it as complimenting the God-given gifts and abilities that are being demonstrated by a player whose body is “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Parent (Spectator) to Officials:
At an early age parents engrain in our children the necessity of respecting authority. Parents instruct them how to respond to adults and to people who are in charge of them. Imagine if a student in a classroom did not agree with how the teacher was teaching and stated out loud “you are not teaching this like it should be taught . . . it should be this way or that way!” Most people would conclude that the student is way “out of bounds” and deserves punishment for disrespect. Suppose in a work environment an employee tells the boss how things should be? Did you hear “there’s the door!”? Why are these examples so easy to agree upon, yet when we consider an example of a coach verbally dissenting with an official or a player expressing disagreement over a call, we excuse these as “just part of the game.” Here, perhaps, is where an unbiblical cultural norm has become most entrenched. Disrespect to authority is disrespect to authority – no matter how you slice it! Forget what professional or college athletes and coaches model as normal behavior. Parents never teach their children that because “everybody’s doing it . . . it’s ok.” We need to be biblically discerning on this matter. God clearly instructs those under an authority to honor and respect that authority. That mandate is not conditional, based upon their quality of performance or godliness. Referees, umpires, and officials are THE AUTHORITY over the game venue. Biblically, we are to honor and respect them as the authority under which we are to submit. There is “no room” for working the officials in a Christian context of spectator conduct. Officials are not exempt from criticism and evaluation, but there are processes in place to accommodate those needs. Criticism and evaluation should not be coming from spectators at a game.
Having sports “IQ” contributes to good spectator behavior. Offsides in soccer and offensive charge vs. blocking foul in basketball are some of the most misunderstood rules in athletics. How often do parents question an official’s call of one of these, and in doing so, display ignorance of the rules of the game? Spectators without a knowledge of the sport they are watching should be especially careful to be “slow to speak and quick to listen.” Sports rule books are easily accessible. If you don’t want to take time to read a rulebook, ask people who understand about rules of that particular sport. They can help explain some of the complexities of the sport and its rules. Remember though, that some tournaments and leagues have adopted their own rules variations, and probably for good reasons. As a general rule, the referee has a distinct advantage of being on the field or court and being close to the action, not unlike an umpire calling “balls” and “strikes” behind the plate. The visual perspective from the bleachers is deficient compared to the one on the field or court. A teachable fan is more likely to respond properly to officiating. Educated spectators enhance appropriate fan behavior.
Some reader may conclude “these 5 points are just NOT natural responses.” You are exactly correct! Followers of Jesus Christ should not be responding naturally as the culture does. Followers of Christ respond biblically, with savor, and a brightness that stands in stark contrast to “business as usual!”
Why a “Christian” School
When the nation’s economy looks bleak and the family budget becomes tight is the choice of a Christian school really that important? Should a monthly tuition debt be one of the first items on the budget “chopping block?” I sometimes hear this response . . . “public schools in my community aren’t that bad, and I even know some Christian teachers in what will be my child’s school. In addition, I will “deprogram” the negative influences that my child may be exposed to.” Some parents may be confronted with such a scenario.
First, it is important that we have a basic understanding of the foundations of public education as it exists today. Those who hold the reins of power in the public education have little, if any, “God-consciousness”. Decades ago they removed prayer and Bible-reading from the public education system and now they zealously guard against anything that would resemble Christianity, while screaming tolerance for Islam and homosexuality. God has been replaced with man, in their thinking. Secular humanism and evolution comprise their religion. Today’s public education system not only mimics our post-Christian culture but also is one of its major contributors.
Are there any regional exceptions to this reality? I personally know dedicated Christians who labor in the public school system. While the thought of your child in such a classroom may be very favorable, the span of a Christian public educator’s influence has its limits. Selection of curriculum, methodology, special assemblies and presentations, and guidance office psychology are among a few items that he cannot control. Six and half hours a day for 180 days a year is a significant amount of instructional time for an institution to influence its students.
With that said, I would like to offer several reasons for prioritizing Christian education for children. At its very root meaning “education” means to lead out of ignorance. Students can be educated in the wrong things. The very heart of Christian education is teaching students in a context of a biblical worldview. That means that English, math, science, history, and even physical education have the truth of God’s Word throughout their presentation. In other words, Christian education is much more than a mere instruction of facts and knowledge. It is education of the heart and soul not just the mind and body. While Christless education does not truthfully answer “who we are, where we came from, what are we doing here, and where we are going”, Christian education gives truthful answers and offers peace that passes all understanding. In addition, Christian schools are staffed by godly and dedicated teachers, who stand in contrast to the masses of public educators who are without Christ and who reject biblical truth. Christian educators understand what it means to watch for the souls of their students (Hebrews 13:17). Finally, consider the fact that most Christian schools provide a haven from a pop culture is set against godliness. From irreverent speech to immodest dress to immoral conduct/attitudes, our culture screams against distinctive Christianity.
The safe and nurturing environment of the Christian school contrasted with its godless public school counterpart make the choice obvious. May our Lord bless His people with the resources to provide Christian education to their children.
A Foundational Truth Worth Fighting For
Does Harford Christian School really believe in a 6-day creation account? Yes! Would HCS really hold to a position that is contrary to the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientific community? The answer is an emphatic YES!
The creation vs. evolution debate has raged for more than a century. Amazingly, most of world’s citizenry have embraced the lie of evolution, not even looking below the surface of this manmade theory. Students transferring to HCS from public schools are often amazed to discover that life on earth is six to eight thousand years old rather than millions and billions of years old. The same intellectual community that embraces that science only pertains to those things which can be humanly observed and repeated, try to squeeze the origin of mankind (something never observed) into scientific dogma. While decrying the creation account as a religious fairytale, they cling to a manmade explanation that is filled with inconsistency, fraud, and error.
People, who by faith, believe that God’s Word is inspired and without error recognize that when man’s science calls into question biblical truth, it is man’s science that is in error – - not God’s Word. A study of history will show numerous examples of universally accepted scientific “truths” that were eventually discovered to be error and folly. One thing is certain – - creationists and evolutionists possess and examine the same identical scientific evidence. One group looks through the lenses of biblical inerrancy and matches the scientific evidence with God’s creation account. The other group looks through the lenses of man’s wisdom, trying to make sense of man’s origin without God in the equation. A glance of Romans 1 explains the end of the man who suppresses the truth of God’s Word and exalts the creature above the Creator. It is not a pretty picture.
If evolutionists are permitted to have their way with the
absolutely true Genesis creation account, they can, and certainly will, question the central message of Scripture – Jesus Christ died for sinful men, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, and eternally intervenes for His redeemed people. Creation is a foundational truth worth fighting for!
I have lost track of the number of grieving parents who have wept regarding the unanticipated misbehavior of a child. Amidst the verbalization of their grief I have often heard statements such as “I trusted him” or “I thought I could trust them”. Occasionally a student will ask “Mr. Wilson, you guys just don’t trust us, do you?” My response often sounds like this. “You’re right! I can’t trust my own heart. Why on earth would I trust yours?” Please understand that my response is not spoken sarcastically or condescendingly, but with a loving and sincere demeanor (and even with a smile), but I hold to the truth of my response.
When a parents come to a biblical understanding of the human heart (it is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” Jeremiah 17:9), they may respond in a multitude of ways. First, they set boundaries for their children to prevent them from being in positions of temptation. Examples may include a bedroom free of internet, phone, and television, never allowing “alone time” with opposite gender friends, or restricting socialization with questionable peers. The list is potentially endless. Second, parents who understand the nature of the human heart will considerately check on their children to insure that expectations are being met. There is a considerate way to validate that your child is meeting your expectations. I reflect back upon my retail sales experiences of my early adulthood. As a retail manager and salesperson, I was taught that every individual that walked into our store was a potential shoplifter. I was then instructed regarding considerate prevention techniques, which demonstrated such a visible care and concern for the customer, so that shoplifting opportunities would not even be a possibility. In other words, we made ourselves so conspicuous and ready to help, that any customer who would be present for the purpose of stealing would find it inconvenient to do so.
It is possible to validate your child’s behavior without them being aware of it or without them feeling that you are spying. Don’t hesitate to tell your children that nothing is off limits to mom and dad, as related to their world. Yes, I am suggesting that it is “ok” for a parent to check through their child’s personal belongings and read texts. It is good practice for a parent to drop in on a bowling party hosted by another child’s parent. It is acceptable parenting to have a “no locked door” policy for bedrooms. It’s “all right” to hug your seventeen-year-old son when he returns home (before curfew) and utilize the hug time to check for tobacco or alcohol odors. Parents who are offended at these suggestions have not come to a realization of the wickedness of every human heart, and ultimately are short-changing their children. We most throw off a societal mindset that would slap a guilt trip on a parent for being so involved in their children’s lives. Hindsight while 20/20 can also be very painful when care and precautions were not taken.
When one considers the meaning of courage, terms such as “bravery” and “fearlessness” enter the mind. Having the courage to do the right thing is not a natural nor easy response. Those who act or speak with courage take uncomfortable risks. One’s social standing or even physical health may be the very items that are jeopardized by being courageous for the right thing.
The Bible is filled with examples of His servants demonstrating great courage in a variety of contexts. When Abram received direction from the Lord to leave his homeland, possessions, and most of his family, he demonstrated great courage by obeying God’s word. Add to that the fact that the Lord did not inform Abram of his destination. How about those risks to physical and emotional health? God called Moses to a place of difficult and high-risk leadership. Although, Moses did not feel equipped for the task, he took the courageous step and the rest is history. Profiles of Noah, David, Elijah and others would demonstrate similar patterns of courage in acting upon what was right.
Earthly existence exempts no one from facing circumstances where courage to do right thing requires a verbal response. The book of James speaks of sins of omission. “. . . to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” One has wisely stated that “a man is responsible for what he doesn’t say.” When confronted with such circumstances, it’s easy to remain silent and “not make any waves.” One’s physical and social standing may be maintained by silence, but a good look into the mirror at the end of the day yields feelings of emptiness and disgust.
May God grant us courage in every circumstance to hear that “still small voice.” For the believer, that voice is the Spirit of God guiding us in truth and righteousness. Popularity and social standing mean very little when compared to obedience to our God. In a dark world, may we be encouraged to courage in all things.
Straight talk about the “parent grape-vine”
As I begin my 20th year in education, I am impressed once again regarding the importance of proper communication flow in the school setting. Show me a school that is excellent and I will show you a school that is blessed with proper and efficient communication.
In narrowing the scope for this article, I would like to define that element of school communication called the “parent grape-vine.” The “parent grape-vine” is a communication network (whether by phone, e-mail, or in-person) between parents of students in a similar educational setting. This may mean that they have children in the same class, who are on the same athletic team, or who have the same teacher. Something in the school setting provides common ground for the purpose of communication.
The “parent grape-vine” has the potential of being very helpful. “When was that game re-scheduled for, anyway?” is an example of productive parent-to-parent communication. I have witnessed, however, the downside to the “parent grape-vine”. When the parent network becomes a forum for airing a particular school difficulty that you or your child has experienced, the motivation is too often not “solution seeking” but rather “support gathering.” Occasionally, I will hear from a parent who makes a statement of this nature. “Mr. Wilson, my son is having difficulty with his teacher and other parents and students confirm that there is a problem.” As soon as I hear this type of communication, I immediately know that the “parent grape-vine” has been inappropriately active.
Without dwelling on the negative, allow me to express my deep appreciation for the majority of parents who do not participate in network gripe sessions. If they or their child has a question or conflict that needs resolution, they communicate with only those who are in a position to answer the question or resolve the problem. This is proper communication.
May God help each of us to set a watch over our communications. May the “parent grape-vine” remain a positive instrument for helpful communication.
The Effects of Absenteeism
Missing a day of school at Harford Christian presents some real challenges of catching up upon return. From a parent perspective it may seem as though it should not be so difficult to get back on track after missing one or more days of school. The fact is, a lot is happening each day in the classrooms of Harford Christian School. Instruction does not slow, homework is not postponed, and tests/quizzes are not cancelled because students are absent. To continue our aggressive academic program, the wheels must stay in motion.
The issue of absenteeism elicits strong opinions from both teachers and parents. We do not accuse any school families of careless disregard of school attendance. For example, sick and contagious students should stay home. Perhaps a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip opportunity may warrant legitimate student absence. While avoiding a challenge to your family authority, please consider the following effects of school absenteeism. When a student is absent he/she:
1) Misses valuable instruction. This is why we have teachers in the classroom. It is
not enough to give a student a textbook and ask him to learn. The teacher guides, facilitates and motivates student comprehension and learning. When students are absent, they miss much more than the homework assignment
2) Is faced with make-up work. Whether it’s homework or a quiz, the load
accumulates quickly. Students can find themselves digging out from a deep
hole if they are not diligent.
3) Loses the academic flow. Announcements, current school events and classroom
instruction are all linked to momentum, a critical aspect of education.
4) Places an extra burden on teachers who must then deal with extra record-
keeping, paperwork, and one-on-one follow up. This last consequence looms
far larger than non-teachers realize.
Following are some proactive strategies that will help in the event of a pre-planned unavoidable trip:
1) Have your student aggressively interact with his teachers ahead of time. Not all
teachers will be able to project exactly what will be covered during a missed
class, but they can come pretty close.
2) If the absence was more of a late-minute surprise, contact the office so that we
can collect missed work and homework assignments and get it to you. Call
early, because the office cannot always accommodate last minute requests.
3) Monitor makeup work closely to insure getting back into stride quickly.
Absences sometimes just happen, but minimizing them makes for better teaching and better grades. So be proactive with your preparation and be sure to follow up. HCS teachers and administrators bend to accommodate the truly special circumstances that sometimes just happen. Please help us to minimize the risk and maximize your son or daughter’s learning experience at Harford Christian School.
In the 21st century places of education have not been and are not exempt from an increasingly violent culture. The Lancaster County Amish school shooting of 2006 has served as a reminder that even private schools are vulnerable to those who desire to inflict harm upon the innocent.
Finding the balance between implemented safety precautions and the maintenance of an open and inviting environment is the school administrator’s ongoing task. Ask one hundred different people what safety interventions should be in place. Then, be prepared to field one hundred different responses. At one extreme some will demand metal detectors at every door and continuous lock-down. On the other, people will insist on an open environment, stating “if someone wants to inflict harm, they’ll find a way to do it.” Harford Christian School seeks to function somewhere between the extremes. We recognize that we must implement prudent and reasonable measures of security, but we also realize that we can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not guarantee safety, and may end up with an environment that does not resemble America.
Harford Christian School seeks to monitor and control entrance into our buildings during the regular school day. An electronic access system at main entries of each building allows for secretaries to establish visual and verbal contact with those seeking entry before granting that access. Student security remains a high priority for our Christian School ministry.