Larkin coach takes high road after lowdown taunts
By Jeff Ward For The Courier-News May 15, 2011 8:36PM
Updated: June 17, 2011 12:19AM
Is this what we’ve finally come to? When did taunting a group of 14-year-old girls become acceptable behavior?
Some St. Charles East parents must be so proud. And the taunts started even before the April 28 freshman girls soccer game between Larkin and St. Charles East High schools.
Most news accounts focused on the racially tinged aspect of the commentary hurled by a group of eight East male students sitting in the stands. Utterly lacking in imagination and intelligence, those remarks consisted mainly of hackneyed Mexican stereotypes. You know, fun things like “no wonder you’re so good at crossing the line.”
And every time I bring up the “r” word, some ballistic readers demand I retract it immediately because “there’s no racism in the Fox Valley.” Really?
But what bothers more than this stereotypical stupidity are the other “interesting” things these immature ignoramuses spewed.
According to Larkin coach Elizabeth Bravo, they also made fun of the girls’ weight and appearance. Unsatisfied with that, they proceeded to swear at them in Spanish and, using slang they thought no adult would catch, referred to the Elgin school’s girls with a derisive term describing a young woman who performs untoward acts in the back of a school bus.
Bravo did enlist the help of her coaching counterpart, who did try to stop the boys, but as it almost always is when you confront nitwits, it only made it worse.
Now, I don’t know what the East coach heard and I wasn’t there, but if it were me and any taunts continued, I would have pulled my own team off the field well before the other coach had the chance.
When the taunting continued after halftime, Bravo said, “The look on their faces was enough for me,” and she told her girls to get back on the bus.
U46 spokesperson Tony Sanders told me, “The board, the superintendent and the entire district are all proud of what coach Bravo did.”
Someone please tell me. Exactly where were the Illinois High School Association-certified referees? While there’s certainly enough blame to go around, they deserve the bulk of it. If a referee can’t control a game, then he shouldn’t be a referee.
I’ve coached and refereed every sport known to man, so I know how difficult it can be. I’m a current U12B Tri-Cities Soccer coach, and those weekend refs would never let this kind of thing go on. I’ve seen parents ejected from the field for far less than what we’re talking about here.
When Bravo asked one of the referees why he hadn’t intervened, he essentially replied he hadn’t heard anything. That’s a bunch of BS. When you’re presiding over a soccer game, you can hear everything — including the folks unhappy with your calls.
And speaking of parents, I assume at least one or two East parents attended the game. Not one of them had the nerve to intervene? As long as it wasn’t aimed at your daughter, right?
“I wanted to protect them,” Bravo told me, “I felt that when my team is being demeaned and belittled for how they look, I didn’t bring them to play in that environment. It’s disappointing. I hear these incidents have happened before, but no one has done anything about it. You can’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.”
I also spoke with District 303 spokesperson Jim Blaney and Superintendent Don Schlomann, who both reiterated Bravo’s contention that verbal fan attacks are becoming more commonplace. Blaney said it gets worse as you move up to the varsity level, and it’s so bad in the Chicago Public School system that they sometimes bar spectators completely.
So once again, I turn to the inept IHSA. Maybe it’s time to put on your big boy and big girl underpants and do something about. The next time some spectators cross the line, stop the game and issue a warning. If that doesn’t work, then call the game and assign the forfeit to the appropriate team. I guarantee you it won’t happen again. This ain’t rocket science.
The good news is District 303 took the high road by taking the forfeit, and the ones who hurled the racial taunts have been punished.
“This is an unfortunate incident that is occurring way too often,” Schlomann said, “We as a district are trying to both educate and discipline students. We see this a learning opportunity.”
“I’m grateful to have the support of the school and U46,” Bravo said. “I am extremely proud of my athletes. It takes a lot of courage to do what they did — to walk away and not fuel the fire.”
Jeff Ward can be contacted at email@example.com.