The recent incident that resulted in the suspension of seven members of the Davis High soccer team is troubling. The referee, at least in the minds of the players, missed a critical call. The players reacted in an unacceptable manner.
As the local paper describes it: “Instead of awarding the Blue Devils a penalty kick, the center referee waved it off, resulting in a mass confrontation, with the seven players rushing at the official.
“The players surrounded the official in a semicircle, forcing him backwards until he was met by a two-handed shove from behind by (the goalkeeper).
“(T)he team’s starting goalkeeper, ran the length of the field in order to make contact with the referee. After the shove, the referee showed (the goalkeeper) a red card and immediately blew his whistle to end the game.”
Give credit to the district administration for immediately taking actions, suspending the seven players.
But what catches my attention is the statement from DHS Athletic Director Jeff Lorenson, who said, “I think it’s important to report that this single incident does not define Davis High School soccer, our school (or) our district as a whole.”
That statement caught my eye because it takes me back to last spring when I met with outgoing Athletic Director Dennis Foster. It was a tumultuous time for the school district, as a volleyball dispute had consumed the community.
Mr. Foster had just stepped down, effective at the end of the school year. One of the things that became clear was this air of entitlement. Often, on-the-field decisions that were disputes were taken were taken to the site level or the district level and there was a lack of respect for the chain of command.
Parents begin to insert themselves at levels that they should not, with the Superintendent, the HR Director or the Board of Education. This throws the structure off and parents end up putting political pressure on the upper administration, which then imposes decisions on the site level administrators.
But really, this is a reflection of a much broader problem – a sense of entitlement by the students and the parents, feeling they are entitled to certain treatment and to be given certain things, whether it be starting positions or what not.
Certainly there are problems across the nation, with people acting inappropriately in youth sports to bad calls by referees. Mr. Foster told me that this was a bigger problem in Davis than other communities.
The attitude by the parents will bleed onto the field into the conduct of the students. So yes, the athletic director is sending the strong message that this is not acceptable, but he is failing perhaps to understand that this actually is a reflection of a broader problem in this school district.
Over the last few months, one of the school board candidates expressed concern about the elitism that pervades this community. There are apparently chants that go something along the lines of: “That’s alright, that’s okay, you’ll be pumping our gas someday.”
That said, we agree with the athletic director when he said, “It’s something that we will use as an educational experience to be better and to improve education to our student-athletes… Right now, you can’t turn back, but we can make it an educational experience and ensure that our Davis Blue Devil jerseys are pursuing victories with honor, code of conduct and continuing to be great sports on and off the field.”
But to me that does not go quite far enough. We can teach our students to act properly and use this as an educational moment. But we need to go further than just our student-athletes, we need to take it to the student population itself, the parents, and the community at large.
There will rightly be severe consequences for this action beyond just the disciplining of the offending soccer players. The California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for prep athletics, and Davis High administrators are looking into a scenario that could result in a one-year period of ineligibility for all athletics. And if any of the players assaulted the referee, they could be banned from high school athletics.
These are good starts that deal with the conduct, but the concern here goes beyond the conduct of these players.
To that end, I want to hear someone above the level of the athletic director weigh in here – the upper administration or the school board, because there is a broader issue at stake, namely this air of entitlement that pervades a lot of these disagreements.
Until we can have an honest dialogue in this community, I see these incidents happening more frequently rather than less frequently.
—David M. Greenwald reporting