I’ve been involved with athletics for most of my adult life, at least from the administrative side of the athletic industry.

I have no shame in admitting that I do not have much talent for playing any sports. As a matter of fact, I may have been one of the few people who struck out at tee-ball (fouled the first two batting attempts and completely missing the ball on the third swing). Maybe that record still exists somewhere in the Bartlett Youth Athletics archives from the 1980s. Regarding basketball, I can only make four out of ten free throws. That’s only if no one else is in the gym.

For almost 10 years I have been the Recreation Director for Second Baptist. I have been an official for basketball, baseball and now football for many levels of play since 1994. I have also had the pleasure of serving as an administrator or scorer’s table personnel for high school and college sports.

Examples of Entitlement

 I have seen diverse attitudes, good and bad, from parents, players, coaches, assistants and even school administrative staff. I can handle the unsportsmanlike attitudes from most people. Respectful dialogue with the head coach can normally take care of those problems. Other problems can be corrected by throwing a flag, issuing a technical foul, or expelling someone from the game site. I admit I am not a patient man when it comes to players or children mouthing off to me. If a coach can’t handle his parents, assistants or players, I have no problem assessing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty or an ejection from the game.  Get the offending party out of my sight; problem solved.

I think I’ve figured out the root of the problem and the main thing that makes me angry. What frustrates me can be summed up in one word –  entitlement.  In my opinion, that’s a nasty word in the athletic community. Especially when it pertains to parents and players.

I estimate that I have worked over 2,000 sporting events in my life. I’ve seen a lot of strange events as an administrator or game official involving what I consider to be entitlement attitudes. The most egregious event that I remember involving entitlement was from a 12-and-under basketball tournament where I worked as an administrator in 2011. A player had mouthed off to his coach. I did not know the reason. The coach sent that player across the court to go sit with his parents. I did hear the coach say, “You’re not playing on this team any more until you get your attitude straight.” A timeout was called by the opposing team shortly after that happened. The father of the player confronted the coach and began shouting. The officials stepped in quickly, but by the time the officials made it to the coach, it was too late. The father slapped the head coach across the face followed shortly by the mother cursing at the coach. Both parents and the player were immediately ejected, and the police had to be called to the game to remove them and prevent anything else from happening.

I may be wrong, but I consider this an entitlement issue.  Because of an entitlement mentality a coach can’t discipline a player with a negative attitude without getting assaulted for it. What kind of parents does this player have?  Someone’s child or self-proclaimed star player does not make the team or isn’t getting enough playing time. Let’s file a lawsuit for $1,000,000 and claim that the child’s rights are being violated and he is experiencing emotional distress. Seriously, this does happen. Entitlement strikes again.  Where do these behaviors and attitudes come from?  I honestly have no idea, but I’m sick of it. These attitudes make me ashamed to be involved in athletics.

A Solution to the Problem

What can I do about it? What can be done to prevent this from happening again? I’ve wrestled with this a long time. A LONG time. A friend once suggested to me to get out of the administrative side of the athletic business. For a while, I considered that. I hated the stress of dealing with these attitudes. I didn’t like going to sleep angry, stressed and frustrated. During the past several months, I have read several articles from coaches, administrators, and even the NCAA on entitlement issues. Heeding a suggestion from a fellow football official (who is also a church elder) to turn to a certain scripture for help on this, I figured out a possible solution. The attitude adjustment needs to start with one person – me.

I do not know the backgrounds of the people I see at athletic events. I don’t know what’s going on in their lives. I don’t know about their ups and downs, their triumphs and their struggles, or their strengths and weaknesses. I can, however, change my perception and attitude toward them. Philippians 2:1-4 helps me to remember this: “So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

I admit that seeing a person with an entitlement attitude still frustrates me. However, the way that I approach that attitude can determine the outcome as pleasant or argumentative. I need to be more loving. I need to show more compassion. I need to not be conceited. I need to be humble. I need an attitude adjustment especially when my attitude may be worse than others. I need the love of God. I need the love of Jesus. Every day and forevermore. So be it. Help me, Lord, to see that.

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