At our School Meeting this week, Mike Marich, Director of Athletics and Head Coach for Boys Varsity Lacrosse, shared a few words about sportsmanship, respect and the Golden Rule, particularly as it applies to spectators and the teams they support. His message resonated with our students as players and fans, and with our faculty and coaches, who cheer for our teams from the sidelines, but I also think it holds value for any parents who have found themselves in challenging situations while cheering on their children.
At The Gunnery, we ask our players and coaches to honor visiting teams and spectators as their own guests and treat them as such, and likewise, to behave as an honored guest when they visit another school. We ask them to be gracious in victory and in defeat, and to learn especially to take defeat well. We ask them to be as cooperative as they are competitive, and to remember that their actions on and off the field, court or ice reflect on them and our school. These same guidelines apply to spectators but sometimes, we fall short of those goals. Here are Mike’s words on how we can all be the best fans.
“With class…” For those of you who Coach Seth Low and I have had the honor of coaching, you might remember hearing those words right before we go into the handshake line at the end of the game. Win or lose, we want to remind you to handle yourself “with class.”
As a coach, I can speak to my team. Today, I am going to speak to you as the Athletic Director and I wanted to address fan behavior, specifically the difference between cheering and jeering. By definition, “to cheer” is “to give comfort or support to.” “To jeer” is “to taunt.”
Friday was a great atmosphere here on campus: a night game, a packed rink against a rival. It was electric and fun and the crowd was into it, but there were times that I felt that some of the behavior crossed the line between cheering and jeering.
One of my favorite things at our school is when a member of a team makes an announcement at lunch and says: “Our team has a game today. Come out and support us.” To me, the most important word in that sentence is “support.” The definition of “support” is “to bear all or part of the weight of; hold up.”
Notice that there isn’t anything in that definition about tearing anything or anyone down. Now, I know some of you will say, “Mr. Marich, it was all in good fun,” or “Mr. Marich, you should hear what other schools say.” I’ll counter that and ask, “Does that make it right?” I don’t think it does, especially in high school athletics. I’ll also counter that we are here at Mr. Gunn’s School and Mr. Gunn believed that character was the goal of education.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that other schools don’t always hold themselves to a higher standard, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t. I also acknowledge the cultural or media influences at play here. Celeys and put-downs are worshiped while the player who sacrificed or did something unselfishly is usually forgotten by the media.
I coach sixth graders in the summer and I was shocked at how many times I would hear, “Expose him!” from parents or opposing players during a game. That behavior unfortunately is learned and it breaks my heart, but as my college coach would say, “It’s easier to tear someone down than build someone up.”
I am not asking you to sit on your hands like they did in the movie “Hoosiers,” and cheer, “We got spirit, yes we do. We got spirit how about you?” But I do think cheering vs. jeering is something we can be cognizant of, and look to improve. Mr. Gunn was counter-cultural and stood up for causes he believed in. We have the opportunity to do that as well.
My job allows for me to watch you play sports. I love what I do. I am so lucky to watch and to cheer you on as you look to learn and grow while competing. So here is my challenge to all of you: I would like for us to start cheering more and jeering less. That is what Mr. Gunn would have wanted and it is what we as a school should stand for.
I’ll also leave you with two quotes of the day. The first is from Vincent van Gogh who said, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
The second is from Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
If either of those didn’t do it for you, there is always the Golden Rule: “Treat others how you want to be treated.”
Whatever you do, just remember to do it “with class.” Thank you.