If you’ve been around high school sports long enough, you’ve been exposed to That Guy.
That Guy who is overly loud and obnoxious toward the referees.
That Guy who berates the opposing coach.
That Guy who acts like a basketball game between 16- and 17-year-olds is a matter of life, death, family honor and hometown pride.
That Guy who makes everybody else around him (or, rarely, her) uncomfortable because he won’t shut his mouth hole.
That Guy is usually a parent of an athlete.
That Guy generally has no clue he’s being That Guy. And he might not care if he does know.
North Dakota’s Class B Region 1 is trying to do something about That Guy and for that it deserves applause.
The region, in the southeast part of the state, implemented a fan/spectator yellow-card policy under which fans exhibiting inappropriate behavior will be flagged with a yellow card by an administrator.
It’s a spinoff of a soccer thing. Unruly players are given yellow “warning” cards in soccer. If a player is given two yellow cards, it becomes a red card and that player has to leave the match.
Red cards are not part of the Region 1 experiment.
It’s partially the brainchild of Wyndmere athletic director Scott Strenge, who (with every other AD on the planet) was looking for a way to handle unruly fans because of a couple of incidents he’d dealt with over the years. A school district in Nevada implemented a yellow-card system and Strenge brought it up with other Region 1 ADs. They agreed to it, but wanted to keep some autonomy in their own gyms.
In part the policy reads:
“Region 1 Schools WILL NOT tolerate the use of foul or abusive language, insulting gestures, taunting, or intimidation of any official, coach, athlete or spectator during this contest.”
Here is the entire policy, handed out to spectators:
It’ll work like this:
If a fan gets out of hand, an administrator at the game will confront him or her and either give a verbal warning or, if the situation warrants, hand out a yellow card.
That person’s name will have their name filed with Region 1 athletic directors and they’ll be subject to further sanctions and possible disciplinary action.
This is where administrators will have some discretion. It’s up to each school to decide what to do with offenders. They could allow them in, or they could ban them.
“It all depends on the school,” Strenge said. “There could be a situation that could get somebody kicked out for a whole calendar year. Or it could be a couple of weeks. It just depends.”
Region 1’s action appears to be the first of its kind in the area.
“At every AD conference, there is talk of what to do with unruly fans,” Strenge said. “This is something we thought we’d try.”
Region 1 should be applauded for its progressiveness. Better to be proactive than reactive. Let fans know ahead of time what’s expected of them, and what won’t be tolerated, and it should a) cut down on the number of incidents and b) diminish complaining after discipline is handed out because the policy is in writing.
Sad that high school athletics have come to this.
But there’s always That Guy.