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LETTER: Playing the right way

To the Editor:

I am a third grade teacher, middle school basketball, high school football and baseball coach, and I worry about the lessons kids and players learn outside of school, practices and games. Some events I witnessed at a youth boy's and girl's basketball tournament in Sioux Center, Iowa recently added to my worries.

While reffing games, I saw adult coaches and fans behave terribly in front of kids. I was watching a fifth grade girls team play and the behavior of their coaches and fans was incredibly disrespectful. Parents were almost on the floor yelling at the refs and coaches were arguing every call. The tournament director told the team they will not be playing in their final two games. In other games, a coach of a seventh grade team was given a technical foul after the first possession of the game and a technical foul was given to a fourth grade basketball coach.

As a teacher and coach, it bothers me to see adults act this way in front of kids, especially when they have a tremendous opportunity to set examples. These young basketball teams with girls with red, white and blue ribbons in their hair and boys with Steph Curry sneakers are absolutely in need of basketball-specific lessons. But to me, coaches are supposed to use the game to teach lessons about life, dedication and teamwork, also.

I am not saying coaches and players should not have passion. You cannot coach and play well without passion. As coaches, we talk to our players about showing respect, keeping calm and battling through adversity, so when we lose our temper and insult the officials, what message

are we sending our players? I believe it is parents and coaches who demonstrate constant disrespect towards other players, coaches and officials create a negative environment for kids. Instead of kids learning how to win, they learn it is somebody else's fault they lost. I hope to see more coaches teaching the fundamentals of the game and playing the game the right way. My big question after seeing these events is, what are we doing?

Tom Heisinger