I’m afraid to attend a high school basketball game.
No, it won’t keep me from attending high school basketball or any other sports event in the upcoming months.
But I’m afraid.
I’m afraid that all in charge of making Tennessee high school sports events safe are not doing enough to guarantee the safety for players, cheerleaders, coaches and fans.
I’m afraid the fights we’ve seen over the past 13 months are not over, but I pray that I’m wrong.
Folks, it’s been a troubling 2019 in Tennessee for anyone following high school athletics. Six high school boys basketball programs have been banned for the postseason due to fighting.
It’s become a black eye for not only the state, but for high school sports.
Something needs to be done. Someone needs to step forward with a plan.
It’s time to quit talking about problems in society and instead have a serious discussion before there are serious injuries.
Consider us all lucky for that. Let’s not wait until it happens.
“One instance is too much,” said Chester County principal Ricky Catlett, a TSSAA Board of Control member. “If you are that school’s administration or that school’s community then it’s going to take years and years to get past that.
“I’ve told our athletic director that they need to meet with our teams and let them understand what is expected of them. They need to constantly know the expectation of our school and our community.”
Since 2011, the TSSAA has placed at least 21 athletic programs on restrictive probation due to fighting. Restrictive probation includes a postseason ban.
Those fights have included boys and girls basketball teams, baseball teams and football teams. There have been schools involved from Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and in rural West Tennessee.
More troubling is that 10 of those postseason bans have come since Jan. 27, 2018.
In recent weeks some have called this an issue in society.
But it goes beyond that. It’s an issue that falls on school administrators and high school coaches to come up with a remedy.
What can be done to prevent high school fights?
So how do you fix it?
TSSAA officials say and videos of recent fights show the issue is fans coming onto the court.
Fine. Increase security. Be proactive at the gate and don’t allow someone who is acting unruly in the gym. Look for unruly fans at games and escort them out.
And remind them before the game and during timeouts if they come on the floor they risk that school’s postseason eligibility.
The problem isn’t going to be solved overnight. The high school athletic association can’t pass measures to stop the fighting. It must be a joint effort between the TSSAA, its member schools and the community.
“The problem is I don’t think people understand and know that if you step out on the court (as a fan) or onto the football field or baseball field that it’s going to affect those athletes that are out there in a negative way,” Catlett said. “I don’t think fans would do that if they knew that.”
TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress believes that initiative is a step in the right direction.
“We are going to have to change the culture,” Childress said. “With our InsideOut Initiative we’re doing that. Winning for some of us isn’t the same for others.
“We’re trying to build character. It’s not about the scoreboard to us. We’re trying to transform kids’ lives.”
Let’s be clear. No one is saying turn off the scoreboard. But life shouldn’t only be about the final score on that scoreboard.
Right now this program is not mandatory. Perhaps making it mandatory is another step in fixing this problem.
It would at least be a starting point before the next fight happens.
Reach Tom Kreager at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Kreager.