It’s that time of year beginning this Thursday. Boys and girls high school basketball returns to the state of Wyoming, and with it, the usual shenanigans in the stands. Fan behavior has only gotten worse over the last few decades and borders on the ludicrous conditions you find in European soccer stadiums on bad nights.
Fan decorum is an emphasis of the NFHS (The National Federation of State High School Associations) every season but is stepping up a notch as basketball approaches. Obnoxious fans are evident in every sporting venue, but none are louder than at basketball games.
“Bench Bad Behavior” is an NFHS campaign with this stated goal,
“WE EXPECT MORE: Bad behavior by fans (especially adults) continues to be a serious problem at high school athletic events—making it difficult to recruit and retain high school officials in every state.”
There is an official shortage, more so than ever before in prep athletics. It’s resulted in the cancellation of lower level programs in other states and could come here.
A record number of men and women answered the call for football and volleyball officials this season, but basketball numbers continue to dwindle. The reason is the fan.
In a few cases, coaches can go over the top, but there is almost always a fan just waiting to extol a little venom toward the officials. Most of these vocal “fans” know little of the game and are just screaming at officials as if that arrogant act will influence an official and give their son or daughter an edge. It won’t, it only diminishes the sport for everyone.
The NFHS is encouraging school administrators to attend every game, from seventh grade through varsity, and take an active role in crowd management. Many will do this, but some don’t want the confrontation and will leave it up to the coaches and officials to monitor bad behavior in the crowd.
A recent trend by game officials has been to stop play, bring over the school resource officer, or law enforcement on duty and have fans escorted out of the gym. That works, but it adds undue pressure on game officials who are there to keep the players safe, and the game played within the rules.
It’s much easier if the “adults” in the crowd limit their own behavior.
You’ll probably witness a few out-of-control fans this weekend as another area of emphasis is put into place.
Every season there is a rule or several rules that are deemed to be an area of enhanced enforcement. This year, it’s the flop.
High school and even lower level players, both boys and girls watch the NBA. While the NBA is officiated about as well as professional wrestling is these days, the kids miss that point and just see the media stars like Lebron James flopping on the floor at the slightest contact to draw fouls. They fall over when an offensive player moves to the basket and completely misses them, they fall backward after taking a jump shot with a pained expression on their face, their arms out in a pleading gesture towards the official, and angry calls for a couple of free throws after they miss a shot. The NBA is entertainment, highly paid entertainment, so you can expect these kinds of antics from the millionaires running up and down the floor in short pants. It’s not acceptable at the high school level.
If a high school player flops, while playing defense, they’re going to get a foul. In the rule book, it is considered unsportsmanlike, and a technical foul will be called. That means two free throws and the ball for the offensive team.
If a player flops after releasing the ball on a shot, that too will generate a technical foul.
The NCAA is a bastion of offensive flopping. College guards will let a 3-point shot fly, then fall back to the floor, hoping to get a chance at a four-point play if the shot falls. A technical foul is rarely called at the collegiate level for this act.
It doesn’t have to be just an outside shot, the same emphasis will be applied to shots in the paint.
That means some upheaval when officials nail a player for flopping, upheaval in the stands, not on the floor since coaches have to pass the same rules test that officials do. If the players don’t know the rule, the coach hasn’t done his or her job, and they’ll quickly learn it from the officials.
If a player hits a shot, then flops without contact, they’ll get a technical foul called on them. The technical counts toward their personal foul total of five.
The other team will send their best free-throw shooter to the opposite end of the floor for a pair of attempts. After taking those two free throws, they’ll get possession of the ball, just as any other technical foul is administered.
The flopping that the NBA brought to the high school game is dangerous. Kids fall, and other kids step on them or twist their ankles or pop their knees out of place tripping over the flopper. It has no place in the game.
A good, well-positioned player, taking a player-control foul from a hard-driving offensive player is one of the most dramatic plays in basketball and has been a part of the game since Dr. James Naismith first nailed up a peach basket in the Springfield gym back in 1890. It’s solid defense and aggressive offense meeting at the point of the spear.
If the defender tips, moves their feet, or initiates contact, the foul is on them. If they hold their position and the offensive player runs over them, it’s a foul on the kid with the ball. It’s that simple.
It’s that simple when the officials call it. One coach will cheer and the other will disagree, but the officials’ ruling stands.
This weekend officials from the Riverton Association, the 307 Association from the Big Horn Basin, and others from around the state will work games in the Bob Carey Memorial Field House, Central Wyoming College, the Riverton Middle School, and Wolverine Gym.
They are there to protect the players, and to allow clean, fair play within the rules of the game.
Coaches are there to set strategy, select players, call plays, and change defenses. Players are there to compete. Fans are there to watch.
It’s worth saying that again, fans are there to watch.
If you’re a basketball expert, why not pick up a whistle, a striped jersey, and some black pants and share that expertise on the floor as an official? It’s appreciated there but has no place when you’re shouting your opinion from the stands.
Here’s to a great start to the winter season.