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Rules on matside parents

Posted by Coach on 12/23/2007, 9:29 am
Board Administrator

I'll try

Posted by Coach on 12/23/2007, 9:23 am, in reply to "Somebody cut to ..."

In theory, wrestling should be like any other sport. That is, parents, photographers (without press passes), and others are not allowed on sidelines of Football or Basketball games, in dugouts, and the like. In wrestling, in some states (and in some areas of our own state), this etiqette is practiced, that is, spectators watch from the appropriate location, in the stands, behind ropes, etc. Generally, our grass roots wrestling has created generations of parents and fans who feel entitled to be on the edge of the mat, citing reasons like "I paid good money," "It's my kid out there," "Everyone else does it," "I just want photos," and any number of other reasons. It's hard to blame them because it is the usual and common practice, and has been for years. At the same time, the only reason it got this way is the lack of volunteers to cover everything necessary (reffing, table help, pairings, concessions, admissions, etc). Security was way down the list of priorities, as tournaments simply ran out of help. Eventually, a monster was created, people were everywhere and anywhere during tournaments, and there was no way to get the genie back in the bottle. Now, USA Wrestling is trying to enforce matside coaches only (put the genie back), and there are growing pains. Referees are forced to also act as matside security, which is unfair to them, but also necessary, as there still is not enough help to provide security.

Well-meaning parents who say "I paid good money and I only want to take a photo of my son" are part of the problem (unwittingly, perhaps) because they perpetuate the past practice and don't support the new rules. If you allow one, you have to allow all. A referee, in his dual role as security guard, can't make value judgments on each person, that is, "well, this is just a nice mom, so I'll let her stay, but this big old loud dad has to go." Referees and other tournament workers are required to enforce the rules, period. Hopefully they will do so in a professional, friendly manner, but dealing with angry or sneaky genie all day gets old, and by necessity they likely become short, curt, and perhaps even rude, because they are trying to focus on their number one job, reffing. They wouldn't get rude to a parent if the parent was in the stands, bottom line.

From a coaches perspective, here are some things for parents to think about.

1. The coach may be polite and accommodating to you, but he usually doesn't want you screaming over his shoulder at your child. He would much prefer you in the stands.

2. Your wrestler already has more stimuli than his young brain can manage, and 2 or more people screaming at him hurts his chances. He needs one calm, reasoned, experienced voice in his corner.

3. Your wrestler needs to learn to be independent out there. I believe it's okay for a wrestler to go coach-less occasionally (not his first match, obviously), so he gains the confidence and fortitude to stand on his own two feet out there.
He certainly needs to be able to wrestle without dad or mom there, because come Dome-time (or wherever), dad and mom won't be there.

4. As a high school coach, I see tournaments where security is enforced, and often parents have a real problem with it, because they were trained at our grass roots level. I also see tournaments where security is not enforced, and instead, the fans are relied on to follow proper etiquette, and these tournaments ALWAYS end up with fans all over the mats, in people's way, getting mixed up in coaching, disrupting the tournament, blocking views, and on and on.

There are places in this country where fans and parents respect the sport enough to follow the rules. Their grass roots level has likely taught them proper etiquette. WA is trying to backtrack and get there, and to get there, rules need to be clear (something USA Wrestling is striving for this year), and rules need to be enforced, however painful this may be for both enforcer and enforcee. Parents and fans can help by being part of the solution, and by not perpetuating the problem. It will be a long, painful struggle, but a necessary one.