Fan Behavior, Esports, New Athletic Director: Vermont Looks Fall Sports Season

Center Sophie Howe and her Hartford football teammates listen to coaching before practice drills at Hartford’s Maxfield Sports Complex in October 2021. Days before Fairhaven Union High School due to sexual harassment from the stands. File photo by James M. Patterson/Valley News

Editor’s Note: This article by Benjamin Rosenberg was first published by Valley News on August 17th.

MONTPELLIER — After multiple incidents of fans verbally harassing student-athletes and referees last year, the Vermont Principals Association announced a move to encourage positive behavior from fans as the need for more officers grows. I am working on

Last October, the Hartford High School girls’ soccer team walked off the field during a game at Fairhaven. This is because people in the student section at home reportedly sexually harassed Hurricanes players throughout the second half. He between Hazen and Winooski at the VPA Division III Boys’ Basketball Championship Game, announcer Brent He Curtis said he had to stop the crowd’s microphone because an insult had been thrown at an official. Also, the men’s soccer playoff match between Winoski and Enosberg Falls was played on neutral field without spectators due to allegations of racial abuse when the teams met earlier in the season.

“We can’t control what other people do. All we can do is try to respond and be proactive about it,” VPA executive director Jay Nichols said at the organization’s Wednesday meeting. said at its annual media day. “When people engage in such behavior, we must take strong action.”

Before every VPA-sanctioned sporting event, a public address announcer reads out a statement emphasizing good sportsmanship, telling players, coaches and fans that all competitions are “free from haze, harassment and bullying of all kinds.” It should not be. Last year, the VPA also released an online reporting form to gather information and identify patterns for the governing body to focus on.

With Covid-19 restrictions and masking mandates on spectators removed, the VPA will continue to remain on high alert against unruly behavior as all events are likely to be at full capacity until further notice. increase.

Lauren Thomas, VPA’s new Assistant Executive Director, said: “Some of our reports were from the student group cheering section. If you’re sitting next to a five-year-old, you feel comfortable bringing your family to the event.”

Next: Esports?

Nichols and Thomas discussed the possibility of adding esports (competitive video games) to the VPA’s jurisdiction. Connecticut became the first state to sponsor high school esports in 2017. In the Upper Valley, both Hartford and Mascoma in New Hampshire have club teams.

Many Athletic Directors in Vermont also oversee other activities such as visual and performing arts, so esports will fall under that umbrella.

Thomas said esports meet four criteria to qualify as a sport. They are human, physical, skill-based and institutionalized. The VPA limits esports offerings to non-violent games such as Rocket League, Madden NFL and NBA 2K.

“We want to have a plan instead of reacting to esports,” says Thomas. “I know that for athletic-minded people, starting an esports league can be uncomfortable because it goes against their belief that they want to get away from the computer, but I believe that esports with connections that students can There’s a lot of value in creating with people you might not normally talk to or interact with at school: opportunities for collaboration and problem-solving.”

Lots of new athletic directors

This year, 17 Vermont Athletic Directors will fill new positions.

The Athletic Director, who had never held the role before, attended a training session hosted by Thomas and David Marlow of Mount Mansfield AD, where he took a Leadership Training Institute course from the National Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association. The VPA also hosts weekly drop-in his meetings for AD to voice concerns and share future plans for the school.

“Athletic directors are the backbone of many sports programs, and helping them live longer results in better programs and a positive impact on children,” said Thomas. “We need to find out what feeder programs are looking at and build that foundation so they can get into high school sports programs.”

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