Coaches and Officials Want to Take Trash Talking Out of High School Games

Tom Fakehany

Mike Bryant does not claim to float like a butterfly, but occasionally he dances like one on the volleyball court. Nearly every time Mike scored last season with a spike, he went through a ritual. He would search out the nearest video camera and perform the butterfly, an arm-flapping, high-stepping dance move. Mike said he skipped the routine only if the his team, was winning by a large margin. "You have to have some class," he explained.

It is a code of ethics not everyone embraces.

Veteran high school coaches feel strongly that Mike's method of celebration, under any circumstance, represents the antithesis of good sportsmanship. Every coach that I respect, hates it, has gotten way out of hand. It starts at the top, at the pro level.

The game is no longer what is important. It's the individual.

Perhaps more than ever before, athletes and coaches are divided on what constitutes acceptable behavior on the court. I am not alone in my opinion that trends such as excessive celebration, taunting and trash-talking are detrimental to sports on all levels. Many coaches place the blame squarely on the shoulders of today's professional stars, whose behavior is sometimes emulated by impressionable teenages. One man's Spam is another man's gourmet feast. For Mike and increasing number of young athletes, influenced by professional beach volleyball, NFL, NBA and major league baseball players, celebrating a good play or talking a little trash has become part of the game, whether older generations like it or not. "I want to put on a show for the fans," said Mike, "they pay good money to see good talent." You have to showcase the talent. I do not think it's ruining the game at all. If anything, it's adding more excitement and drawing an audience. In the opinion of Mike and a number of his peers, doing the butterfly is nothing more than a harmless exercise in self-expression. "I am not there to show up any other players," he said. "I'm just there to show my accomplishment." Others contend, the colorful but controversial, antics of athletes contribute to an atmosphere of hostility. This can lead to hard feelings and, in extreme instances, violence. Coach spends much more time dealing with disturbances and fights at events.

Everything is harder today. There is just more hostility, a lot more frustration to deal with. It's a reflection of the kind of society we live in. We are messed up. Athletics is just an extension of society. Coaches are suggesting extreme action if the situation does not improve. They say that if the mentality out there is that you show your athleticism at the expense of the other guy, and do all these mean-spirit things, athletics should be removed from the educational system. They say, "Make it a club activity, because the high school has too many other things to worry about." Every coach, athletes, parents, administrators and game officials all have their own views on why attitudes toward sportsmanship are changing and what, if anything, should be done about it. The impact the pros and colleges have had on high school kids and sportsmanship is devastating. It's harder to control high school kids as far as emotions go. The taunting, that in-your-face stuff (causes) high school kids to fight, where a pro can just walk away from it. You, as a high school coach or official, have to be on top of things more than college or pro coaches or officials.

High school players look up to professional and college volleyball players. They have gotten 1,000 people yelling for them. In high school they want to do the same things. It looks cool. If they can accept it on the professional and college levels, some players say, "I do not know why the high school level cannot accept it." This attitude has caused some coaches to question their own time-honored beliefs. Most coaches have a no-nonsense, disciplinary approach. You do not have to be a great player to be in a program, but you have to be able to say, "Yes, sir," and "No, sir." . Now every coach is wondering if his values are behind the times. He knows many of his players would copy what they see in the AVP if he did not prohibit showboating and individualistic attire. Most coaches, as teachers, agree that our society has moved so far to the individual and individual expression. It's getting too hard to teach the kids. Not everyone is ready to throw in the towel.

The whole idea of sportsmanship and fair play is perceived as a sign of weakness in many areas. The whole idea is to grind the other guy down. For some, it's something positive to be merciless, something to be proud of. So, where does a coach draw the line? When does a celebration or a display of athleticism infringe on the basic principles of good sportsmanship? It's a gray area coaches, officials and players are having difficulty defining.

Note: As of the 1995-1996 season in Federation (high school) Volleyball trash talking is considered to be unsportsman like conduct.

Home Court