WARWICK — Citing serious concerns about fan behavior at Rhode Island Interscholastic League sporting events, the Principals’ Committee on Athletics is setting the tone to make sure incidents like the one that unfolded at last spring’s boys lacrosse state title game never happen again.
At Monday’s meeting, the PCOA heard the league’s presentation on its sportsmanship campaign and voted unanimously (11-0) to ensure all member schools have sportsmanship standards that are articulated and enforced at all levels of play.
The RIIL expressed its concerns to the Principals’ Committee about the on-field or on-court behavior of student-athletes and coaches.
In terms of unsportsmanlike behavior from spectators, the sight of the parent of a La Salle lacrosse player coming out of the stands at Cranston Stadium and assaulting a Moses Brown assistant coach after the June 2 Division I title game provided the necessary ammunition to spell out guidelines that all take aim at the same “knock it off” premise. (The parent was charged by Cranston police with disorderly conduct and simple assault after allegedly slapping the assistant coach.)
Otherwise, if compliance is not met, a team might take the field or court minus the services of a teammate or coach, or without the presence of fans.
The PCOA now expects its members to spell out the standards in the school’s student-athlete and parent handbooks. For fans, expectations should be posted at each contest site and announced when appropriate. The RIIL expects that school administrators will carry out the mission of all policies related to proper sportsmanship.
For starters, administrators must create a code of conduct to be reviewed and signed by all parents, coaches and athletes. Each school’s principal (and the superintendent, if possible) should make it a priority to discuss the expectations prior to all seasonal sport meetings. Separately, the principal and athletic director will meet with all coaches prior to each season to remind them about exhibiting good sportsmanship.
On game days, each host school needs to ensure that enough support staff and security are on the premises so that if public criticism or disparaging statements are made about an opposing team, official or fellow spectator, the person at fault can be identified and quickly removed. The RIIL is prepared to organize a workshop for any school staff assigned to work games and address topics such as how to seat fans and what to be on the lookout for before, during and after a game.
Additional suggestions to curb unsportsmanlike behavior include scheduling games earlier in the day, eliminate fans from a game and suspend and/or penalize those deemed guilty of crossing the line. If necessary, the RIIL will mete out penalties if multiple ejections occur during the same season.
The PCOA is adamant about showing respect to game officials, namely having players and coaches go up and thanking them at the end of each game.
With Kevin McNamara departing as Lincoln High principal to become assistant superintendent of the Lincoln Public Schools, there was a need for a new chairman of the Principals’ Committee on Athletics. Taking over for McNamara will be Cranston East principal Sean Kelly, who had served as PCOA assistant chairman. Narragansett High principal Daniel Warner, also a PCOA member, was elected as the group’s vice chairman. Kelly and Warner will each serve a term of five years.
With Monday marking his final meeting as PCOA chairman, McNamara took a few moments to thank his fellow board members. McNamara spent nearly 14 years on the Principals’ Committee, the last six years as chairman.
“Our involvement matters,” said McNamara, who was presented a commemorative plaque by RIIL executive director Tom Mezzanotte.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03