CA-NA-DA, CA-NA-DA, as the USA Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team entered the Barcelona arena it seemed like 17,000 were rooting for Canada. I know that’s not true because there were Americans in the crowd, but the shouts for our rival were so loud we couldn’t even communicate on the court during warm-ups.
The recent attempt in Wisconsin to end taunting is as well-intentioned, as it is misguided. In the 17 years that I played basketball, that one time, at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympic Games, as we entered the court to compete for the gold, is the only memory I have of being taunted by spectators. I know it’s not the only time that it happened, but being able to focus and block out distractions is an important skill for any athlete, it’s also an important life skill.
The scars I carry with me from my basketball years are from bad coaches (they are everywhere), politics that kept players who had earned their spots, off national teams and off the court and the relational aggression that is endemic in women’s sports that leads to all –tournament team and MVP awards being popularity contests.
If Wisconsin athletes are so delicate that they cannot endure a few or even a lot of crowd jeers then perhaps college recruiters should just cros
s Wisconsin off their list. Being a collegiate athlete is not for the faint of heart. With practice five to six days a week, along with homework, and away games focus, is only one of the many skills they need to master.
If Wisconsin wants to the taunting to stop they would be better severed by starting to change their sports culture. That starts with training for coaches, administrators and parents and with adults setting the example. Have you been to an adult sporting event lately? Is it any wonder our kids taunt the other team?
Although I believe that adults who attend high school games should refrain from taunting and focus on positive encouragement, how can we expect our children to refrain when it is we, the adults, who set the example?
As adults when we make a mistake we don’t get detention or sent to our rooms, we are publicly embarrassed, fired, fined, there are all sorts of consequences. Part of growing up is learning how to deal with mistakes, embarrassment and difficult situations.
The question we should be asking ourselves is not, “How do we silence the crowd?” It is “How do we provide our children with the tools and skills so that they can deal with that situation?”
I have great fears for the direction that America is going, where people are so quick to take offense and we are so politically correct that we cannot even have conversations about issues and problems.
You want to talk embarrassing sports moments. At the 1994 Gold Cup Games I made a basket for France. I doubt that there is any mistake a high school athlete could make that is equal to that and I survived—self-esteem intact.