On August 9, a new ruling sent down from the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association addressed an elephant on the field that schools and athletic officials have been aware of, yet not many have chosen to publicly address: bad behavior at school sporting events.

The basic premise of the new OSSAA ruling is that unsportsmanlike behavior will no longer be tolerated at any sporting events governed by OSSAA. Although the ruling seems more aimed at fan behavior, it does include team behavior. A first infraction will result in a warning; subsequent infractions are subject to suspension.

Sadly, incidents of unsportsmanlike behavior at high school sporting events across the country have seen a rapid rise during past years, creating the need for many schools to adopt a spectator code of conduct applying to fan behavior.

“We don’t have major spectator problems,” said Marietta Superintendent Brandi Naylor, “but having a policy is a better way to communicate expectations. And this way, our administrators, coaches, and staff members are all on the same page as far as what behavior we allow and what we don’t.”

Marietta Public Schools adopted a Spectator Code of Conduct in December 2016, although that original code has been since been revised.

Prior to the beginning of any OSSAA-sanctioned sporting event, sportsmanship announcements are read via public address. These announcements notify fans that their continued presence signifies acceptance of that Spectator Code of Conduct and their willingness to abide by it.

According to Marietta’s code of conduct, sports fans are to display self-control and moral behavior, setting an example for children. It goes on to emphasize self-discipline, modesty in victory, and graciousness in defeat.

For many fans, perhaps the most difficult thing asked of them is to be respectful of all players, coaches, and officials, recognizing that verbal abuse directed at any player, coach, or official has no place in any school activity.

Verbal abuse, particularly incidents directed at officials, is one of the behaviors that the OSSAA ruling hopes to address.

While Marietta’s Spectator Code of Conduct has been around a while, the new OSSAA ruling applies to sanctioned events beginning this school year.

“The code of conduct hasn’t been an issue – most of our fans don’t even notice we have it.” Naylor concluded, “And as long as we remember that we attend sporting events to support and encourage our student athletes and set a good example for them, it shouldn’t ever be an issue.”