Combating increased violence at games
Despite the best efforts of our athletic directors, there has been a significant increase in violence at our sporting events. Usually it has very little to do with the athletes on the field or court. Instead, it centers on those attending and hanging around the games — and not necessarily fans.
It’s fairly common that schools have codes of conduct for the athletes and expectations for parents and fans, but what do you do with those not associated with your school community? This is the area in which you may need to put in a little additional thought, planning and effort.
Curtailing violence1. Keep a list of schools, perhaps broken down by specific sports, with whom you’ve had problems in the past. This information will be valuable for your planning prior to each season.
2. Take a look at attendance figures for each opponent from previous years. Traditional opponents, neighboring schools, and rivals will most likely mean more fans at the game which could lead to increased violence.
3. Consider banning beverage containers that fans carry into the sporting venue. Several schools — this effort was initially instituted in our area in Howard Country, MD. — have taken this approach to prevent fans from bringing alcohol into a contest. Alcohol is an obvious link to increased problems.
4. Prevent groups of students from walking around to the opponent’s side of the stadium. Usually, the reason that students might attempt going to the visitor’s bleachers is that they intend to harass or taunt the opponent’s fans. This action could precipitate violence.
5. Consult with your school resource officer or local police department to see if they are aware of potential problems. This is particularly effective if these professionals contact their counter parts in the opponent’s school or community. Sharing these developments, rumors, or innuendo could be vital to preventing problems.
6. Plan to have the visiting team picked up at a side entrance to the stadium or gym. This proactive step keeps fans and teams apart and can be another deterrent to possible confrontations and violence. To accomplish this effort, you should contact the opponents’ A.D. and provide them with your procedures.
7. Always have security personnel accompany the visiting team to their bus. If possible, also have them follow the bus through the parking lot until they leave your school property.
8. Advise your coaches to have their teams board the bus immediately following away games. Having players loiter on the field or court after games increases the potential for problems. After shaking hands with the opponent, collect equipment, clean up around the bench and leave. A coach can very effectively address the team as the bus is moving.
9. Take steps to insure the safety of the game officials. Depending upon the type of staffing you have available at a contest, have a police officer, administrator, or game manager walk with the officials to their cars. Ideally, this person should carry a walkie-talkie or cell phone to request help, if necessary.
10. Charge admission through the end of a contest. This may curtail the number of individuals bent on causing a problem from entering the venue. Also, do not allow those who leave the contest to re-enter. They could return with a weapon or alcohol.
11. Prohibit fans from bringing bottles and cans into gymnasiums. Not only do these containers cause problems when spilled on the floors and bleachers, but they can also become dangerous projectiles.
12. Make PA announcements during homeroom throughout the week prior to big, important contests. It is through this effort that you should present and reinforce your behavioral and sportsmanship expectations for your student-fans.
13. Strategically plan where you want your security personnel located during games at your various venues. Take into consideration the various entrances, the location of ticket booths, the layout of the bleachers and exits, poorly lit areas, and other aspects specific to your setting.
Also, because of their expertise, don’t forget to include your school resource officer or local police department in the planning. This proactive step can prevent many potential problems.
14. Have your PA announcer communicate your fan expectations, not only at the beginning of a game, but at half-time, and prior to the end of games. It can also be very helpful to review procedures for exiting the venue at the end of the contest. Provide any and all information which will help keep the opposing fans separated, moving in a quick and efficient manner, not only out of the stadium or gym, but also the parking lot.
15. If one of your teams won a league or state sportsmanship award, use it as a form of reinforcement to emphasize your student standards and expectations. Display the award in a highly visible location in the school and make reference to it in publications, on daily announcements, and on the sign board in front of the school.
Even with the best laid plans, problems may occur at games. However, it is incumbent upon athletic directors to think ahead, act proactively, and take as many precautionary and preventive measures as we can.
Well organized events can and should be both fun and safe for everyone involved — participants, coaches, officials, and fans.