Unsporting behaviour must face consequences

By The Editorial Board 15 May 2024, 10:00AM

The scenes after the final whistle at the recently held schools rugby championship were far from what one would use to describe sportsmanship. Sportsmanship means fair conduct and respect for one's opponent, even by fans.

What we are witnessing in the sports world is anything but that. The ban imposed on the two schools is the culmination of years of such behaviour by athletes and fans.

St. Joseph's College were banned from rugby for four years after the behaviour displayed by students and supporters after the loss in the finals while Safata College was banned for two years from national tournaments.

It is understood that the penalty placed on Safata also stemmed from similar circumstances after being defeated.

The decision to penalise St. Joseph's College was reached during a recent meeting of the organising committee's executive members, comprising principals from the different colleges across the country.

An executive member of the committee, speaking on condition of anonymity to the Samoa Observer, shed light on the gravity of the decision-making process. Emphasising the challenging nature of the decision, the source highlighted the committee's determination to set a precedent by unequivocally condemning violence within the inter-school competition.

"The ethos of these tournaments is to nurture talent and foster sportsmanship, with the ultimate goal of contributing to the national team," the executive member said.

"Discipline is paramount, and it is imperative that students learn the values of both victory and defeat."

The ban for the school that has produced some of the nation’s top leaders and athletes does seem a bit harsh but if this behaviour was going to continue, then the punishment does fit the crime.

It does deprive future rugby players of a chance to be part of a sport that they could make careers out of, but you cannot hold the integrity of the game at ransom with that. Many good players now must be contemplating a move to other schools good in rugby and some future players may opt not to go to the school.

However, this was the consequence the players, fans, adults and the school head should have thought about before behaving like hooligans. The unruly behaviour is also a reflection of the discipline in the school. If a school has its discipline proper, the message would be relayed to fans and players alike. Or is it too hard to control this generation who seems to think that everything must be solved with violence?

Or is this a reflection of the culture of violence that is in our homes?

Stones were thrown, students and adults punched and names were called. This is not the behaviour expected. We have had too many games where disagreement with officials’ calls leading to tempers being flared and resulting in fights at the venue or outside.

Rugby club games, rugby league matches and even athletics meets have had this happen.

The organising committee has set a precedent that such behaviour would not be tolerated. It should never be.

Fan and player safety is at stake. Cooler heads must prevail. On or off the field of play, everyone has a responsibility to show good sportsmanship and foster a safe environment for both fans and athletes.

Playing sports brings many benefits to young people. They get plenty of exercise, learn the importance of working together and build self-esteem as they grow as players. They learn the responsibility of being prepared and working to improve themselves. They often have to work on fundraising and community-service projects for their schools as part of their team responsibilities.

If they have good coaches and athletic directors, they also learn important lessons about what's right and wrong. Coaches can be a huge influence in the lives of these developing citizens. The best coaches serve as role models, preach good sportsmanship, treat their players fairly and demand respect for players from other teams.

Winning is great -- the players like it; the coaches like it; the fans like it. But it isn't so great if it is earned by cheap shots or unnecessary roughness; it isn't great if any players are harassed on or off the field.

We think most area coaches believe strongly in the value of good sportsmanship. They want to win, but they also care about their players and the reputation of their schools.

Sometimes the problems arise in the stands, not on the fields. We all hear the parents who second-guess every coaching decision, who harangue the officials whenever a call doesn't go their team's way and who disparage the players from the opposing team. Thankfully, those types of fans are a minority, and if they knew how they were viewed by others, they might keep their comments under better control.

The athletes make mistakes; the coaches do, too. And every official sometimes makes a bad call, despite all the training they go through. But no one should be subjected to some of the bitter diatribes we've heard. We're talking about high-school sports; it's not life and death. Don't these belligerent fans realise they are an embarrassment to their children?

So as our young people do their best on the field, let's hope all the fans and adults involved follow suit. 

By The Editorial Board 15 May 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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