Inappropriate crowd harassment and how to deal with it

This DID NOT just happen! My initial, gut reaction is to be shocked. Although, maybe I shouldn’t be. Maybe I should be shocked it hasn’t happened sooner.

There’s not really a well-worn path to assure yourself that you and your daughters are prepared for something like what my own child recently experienced. Looking back, of course the question of “Did we handle it correctly?” resounds repeatedly in my ears. Truthfully, I don’t know. Did I lose my cool? You bet. Was I justified? You decide. We had to go through this unfortunate event, and now that we’re on the other side, we want to share it with you.

It’s an all-time first for me to have one of my daughters come shaking and boohooing off the court after a game. Her reaction wasn’t because of the way she played, or drama between teammates, but because she felt trashy and humiliated and embarrassed because of sexual harassment from the fans during the game.

She was afraid to squat into serve receive or defensive position for fear of the repeated innuendos and comments.

Unfortunately, the assistant coach only heard one incredibly loud gesture over the super charged and super loud crowd. She told our daughter basically to buck up and ignore it. How do you ignore over the top loud comments and repeated gestures and innuendos that are within a few feet of you? (and since when is one infraction not enough?) Basically she was told their behavior was ok but her reaction wasn’t. She wasn’t validated that what they were doing and saying was wrong. She was made to feel wrong. The (paid) line judges heard it all, but did nothing because our daughter didn’t speak up and call it out. Has it really come to this: that tolerance of such inappropriate and lewd behavior is the new norm until we speak up? Since when is wrong not wrong?

We (coaches, refs and parents) have an obligation to protect our daughters -unwilling targets- from harassment like this during a game. Where can they possibly go to get away from it? Instead of speaking up and calling it out to the other team’s coaches, administrators or refs we turned a deaf ear during the game to the situation and allowed our girls to be repeatedly harassed and expected them to play at the top of their game. These girls are mostly 15 years old.

I yelled at coaches, insisted that the other team’s coach be brought into the situation but was denied this request. Who does that help knowing the next round of play was about to start? Did we go find one of our administrators? Yes. Did they speak with the other team’s admins? Yes. Did they do anything? No, it continued to happen during the following games.

Our school staff said that they can’t do anything about calling out the fans behavior or harassment because we weren’t at our home gym. WHAT?? So you witness a crime but because it isn’t in the city you live in you should just ignore it and walk away? NO!!!!

So at the end of the day what we learned:
1. Address this with your girls if you haven’t already. It is not about being tough, it is about acknowledging right from wrong and not accepting tolerance of wrong things.
2. The best thing is to do is tell the court captain (typically the setter or libero) and have them tell the coach or main referee.
3. If it is school ball, find an administrator immediately and tell them.
4. Once your daughter is calm have her write down everything she heard and how she felt. She will most likely have to do this anyway if it is during a school sanctioned game.
5. Do not leave until you have told a school administrator.

Overall, it’s probably best to not get too heated about it, but if no one else is going to protect your daughter, then you have to! If you have been through something like this and have other words of wisdom please share!

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