The decision by the principals of six schools in the Fullerton Union High School District--the so-called Freeway League--to clamp down on coaches and players involved in fights during games should be cheered. It’s time to lay down the rules in a way players, fans and coaches can understand: If they get involved in a fight, they’re out of the game. It’s a simple approach that should be adopted in all schools, beginning with the Southern Section of the California Interscholastic Federation, where many of the ugliest incidents have occurred.
The rules adopted by the Freeway League--Buena Park, Fullerton, La Habra, Sonora, Sunny Hills and Troy high schools--will suspend for the next game any coach or athlete who is ejected from a sports event, or any athlete who leaves the bench or sidelines during an altercation. It will suspend from all prep athletics for one calendar year any athlete who assaults or strikes another athlete, coach or official. There will also be workshops for students, parents and school sports advisers on proper behavior at athletic events.
The new rules are toughest on coaches, as they should be. Southern Section commissioner Stan Thomas was right when he said: “Everything, I mean everything, comes down to the coach.”
If coaches conduct themselves well, so will players and parents. If they don’t, things easily can get out of hand. Some coaches may even welcome a sign that winning isn’t all. The new policy is at least an attempt to return high school athletics to their original intent: teaching sportsmanship. It’s long overdue.