School has begun for the 2023-2024 academic year! Undoubtedly, the beginning of school brings the start of school-sponsored sports. There will be football, volleyball, softball, cross country, basketball, wrestling, track & field, soccer, tennis, and (while not a sport) band. I encourage my children to participate in as many sports as possible. My middle schooler is playing 2 sports this fall, which is a time commitment for the whole family. My elementary schoolers are playing basketball, and their season starts in the fall instead of the spring. This is yet another time commitment, but again, I encourage my kids to try it all. Did I mention that all of them are in dance? I’m pretty sure I need to rethink that “try it all” level of encouragement.
While I love both the excitement of a new school year and a new year of sporting events, what I don’t like, nor do I understand, is the increased level of violence occurring at these sporting events. When I was young, the student population expected to witness a fight during the football or basketball game between the players on the field or court during a school rivalry game. The administrators accounted for that by staffing more faculty throughout the event and requesting an increased police presence. However, now the violence occurring at games does not happen on the court or field, it is occurring in the audience!
Like every other parent in the world, I want my children to be safe at all times. I want to support their school events and I want them to enjoy their childhood. School activities and events are a big part of childhood. But with the increase in violence at these events, when do you say: no, we aren’t going? When I was a teenager attending sporting events, if the teams playing were rivals and there was a high probability of fighting, my parents attended the games with me. I was allowed to sit in a different section away from them, but there were rules and places to meet up in the event that violence disrupted the game.
With the number of school shootings happening in this country, I really shouldn’t be surprised that shootings are happening at school sporting events too. Let me give you a few examples. In Oklahoma, at a high school football game recently, there was a shooting during the game. A shooting! A family was there to enjoy the game and their son didn’t make it home that night. Last school year, at another school there was a shooting at a basketball game in front of the concession stand. There were no casualties, but several people were injured while trying to run away. This phenomenon is not just happening in Oklahoma. Michael Fletcher from ESPN.com (September 2022) reported on a story about a shooting at a football game in Mobile, AL that resulted in several wounded individuals. As a spectator, I’m concerned about attending school sporting events. As a parent, I’m also very concerned about letting my children attend these events. Where is the dividing line? When do we decide that the risk outweighs the desire for childhood frivolity and good natured competition? I don’t know that there’s an answer to this.
Until the world gets its collective (insert explicative here) together, I will attend the sporting events with my children while giving them guidelines, boundaries, check in points, and meet-up spots. I will give them instructions regarding running away from gunshots, don’t follow your friends into bad situations, always be aware of your surroundings, etc, etc, etc. All of this is necessary so that I feel comfortable attending the games, so that my children can attend the games, and maintain a piece of their childhood. I want to feel that I’m allowing my kids to be kids, but I’m also protecting them as best as I can.
I don’t have an answer to all of the violence in the world. I wish I did. All I can say is until things change, love your kids and do what you think is best.
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.