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Home arrow Opinion arrow Editorials arrow Timeouts for Coaches

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Timeouts for Coaches

So the coach of a sixth-grade girls basketball team drew a pair of technical fouls from a 17-year-old referee who makes 10 bucks a game.

Then the coach, 34-year-old Jeffery Scott Larsen, got tossed from the game.

Then Larsen was charged with criminal trespassing because he refused to exit the gym.

This episode, you might surmise, didn't exactly epitomize the concept of sportsmanship.

No, no it didn't.

This all happened last weekend in Clackamas County. The Oregon media, both electronic and print, have taken up the story in a big way.

I understand why that's so, and I think the publicity is a good thing.

Oregonians ought to know about it when one of their fellow residents commits an act so senseless and so infantile that it soils, however briefly, the essential goodness of our state and its people.

I'm worried, though, that Larsen's antics attracted this avalanche of attention in large measure because he coaches a sixth-grade girls team.

The implication, it seems to me, is that the coach's misdeeds are especially galling because, after all, who could possibly get so irate about a game that, on the scale of sports significance, plays in the same neighborhood as YMCA soccer.

And that implication leads naturally to another: That we might have understood Larsen's outburst, if not excused it, had it happened during, say, a boys varsity game.

You know, a game that really matters.

Hogwash.

No game is so important that a coach can justify breaking the law so as to make his point to the referee in a particularly emphatic way.

The same is true for spectators and for players.

The sad truth, of course, is that Larsen is no anomaly — not even in youth basketball.

I wonder sometimes whether even a tiny enclave of athletics has withstood, its spirit of healthy competition intact, the onslaught of boorish behavior that seems to have permeated every level from the professional leagues on down.

I have yet to witness a T-ball or youth soccer coach foul the diamond or the pitch with a profane tirade. But I'm not so naive as to believe such a thing hasn't happened.

I don't know how to prevent, or even discourage, fiascoes such as Larsen's. I doubt there is a simple solution.

Sometimes the gap is an exceedingly narrow one that separates a fan's or a coach's or a player's reasonable expression of disgust at a referee's call, from a hysterical, and potentially felonious, tantrum.

Larsen leaped that gap with plenty of clearance, sure, but people involved in athletics often exceed the bounds of sportsmanship without landing in a courtroom besides. Those people rarely make the news, but they pollute the purity of their games just as surely as Larsen did.

The best advice might be that which some child psychologists dispense to parents (plus it's a term familiar to everyone involved in sports):

When your anger begins to boil over, and you simply can't stand idly by while a referee or a coach ruins your life (I mean your kid's life — this is all about the kids, of course, and has nothing at all to do with you having a second go at the missed glory of your youth) how about you do this:

Go find a convenient corner, and wedge your nose into it, and just take a timeout.

Jayson Jacoby is the editor of the Baker City Herald.

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