By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck LLC
I'm a big rules guy. I believe that part of our role in society is to obey laws for the greater good even if those laws seem dumb or they inconvenience us. As I've written before, I feel as coaches we must adhere to rules for the good of the game.
I live in a community where a lot of people seem to think the rules don't apply to them – that they are above them in some way. I'll give you an example: Before school became virtual, (hopefully not for long), every afternoon at the elementary school near my house you'd see the same thing at the time of dismissal: A line of 30-40 vehicles stretched out from the parking lot up the adjacent street, stopped in the middle of the lane. If you were unfortunate enough to turn off the main road at that time you'd quickly approach the end of that line. Now, you have two choices. Sit there and wait behind them for 20 minutes while causing traffic to unsafely back up onto the busy road where the speed limit is 50 MPH, or cross into the other lane and drive down the hill hoping you don't encounter a driver coming toward you.
These are all able-bodied young parents who were five feet from available curbside parking. But rather than walk a a few hundred feet to retrieve their kids, they choose to sit in the lane, in their running cars. The people in the front of the line, in the parking lot, are parked along the fire line.
So, what is the purpose of having a fire lane marked in red? Why is it illegal to park in the middle of the street? I'm sure these people all rationalize it by figuring they aren't hurting anyone. Yet if you drive past them and look into their windows, every single one of them is doing what any driver who knows they are in the wrong does; They are looking away as if captivated by something out the passenger window. You only see the backs of their heads. God forbid someday an emergency vehicle needs to get down that hill and into the school parking lot. The few minutes these people saved by not parking and taking a pleasant walk could be the crucial few minutes they cost first responders.
OK, so now that I've ranted about something that really annoys me, I'll get to the tie-in to sports.
A few days ago I read the State of Ohio's rules allowing youth baseball and softball to resume play. There were guidelines for parents, players, coaches and officials. Masks are going to be required. Social distancing is mandatory. Sanitizing of equipment expected. There will be a lot of new protocols that will be uncomfortable and that will diminish the fun of the experience.
And, I am certain, there will be plenty of adults who think the rules are unnecessary, are stupid; overkill. They think they know better, and that ignoring the rules is really not going to hurt anyone. And its possible that they are right. That even if they don't wear masks and social distance, no one would get sick. It's also possible that they're wrong. This won't be limited to baseball and softball, but every sport as we open back up.
So I would encourage these coaches to think about this. By not following the guidelines, what message are they sending to the kids they are coaching? What will happen if they play against a team whose coaches are adhering to strict protocol? Will the kids on the non-conforming team laugh and make fun? Will they feel superior because they aren't bound to “stupid” rules?
What kind of adults are those kids going to become? My guess is that there is a better chance they'll be the type of adults who feel it is just fine to park in a fire lane rather than simply pull into an available parking spot. The kind who only think about what's best for them, not what's best for others. Maybe I'm being overly-dramatic. But I do know that as parents and coaches we are teaching every minute of the day.
Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.