NMAA within rights to shut down contest


April 24, 2019

Any parent whose child competes at anything knows the feeling: the stomach-clenching anxiety, the blood-boiling righteous indignation when you feel your kid was robbed — likely outstripping the level of emotion of the actual competitor.

They might clench a fist, say a prayer, mutter an expletive (hopefully under their breath).

But there’s a line. At least, there oughtta be.

And some New Mexico cheer and dance students, parents and coaches have clearly crossed it.

According to an April 14 Albuquerque Journal article, the New Mexico Activities Association is considering calling off next year’s State Spirit Competition, the most important tournament in the state for high school cheerleaders and dancers. The reason? A rising wave of unbelievably classless bad behavior and poor sportsmanship from students, parents and coaches.

The bad eggs have reportedly been engaging in social media taunts and bullying, and in one case this year someone even made a direct death threat to two people helping with the competition.

A death threat. At a cheerleader competition.

Some of the anger stems from the judging at last month’s State Spirit Competition. While other sports have more clear-cut winners based on the number of touchdowns, baskets or goals scored, determining the winner in cheerleading and dance is based on more variables and subjectivity. And obviously judges are key to that process.

But this shouldn’t be the Hunger Games. It’s a high school cheer and dance competition.

What an embarrassment.

It’s another let-down in a state clearly grappling with a reputation for poor prep-athlete sportsmanship — a reputation earned at multiple schools and across many sports, by the way.

Remember the mothers from Belen and St. Pius who duked it out during the state wrestling tournament where their sons were competing in February 2018? Or the fight a month earlier among dozens of students following a basketball game between Cibola and Volcano Vista high schools?

The list could go on.

Unfortunately, it does.

What a pity that, in a state where parental involvement is too often lacking, some parents who do choose to show up act like children themselves.

But here we are. And what options, exactly, does NMAA have to try to curb the insanity and keep everyone safe?

• They can suspend athletes for their bad behavior.

• They can suspend athletes for their parents’ bad behavior.

• They can shut down competitions to fans to keep some of the harassing behavior out.

• They can punish entire teams by excluding certain schools from competing.

None of those options is perfect, especially considering that some amount of the abuse is taking place on social media and behind anonymous accounts.

And then there’s the idea that NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said is on the table: shutting down an event altogether — in this case, the 2020 State Spirit Competition.

It’s a drastic move, especially considering what a financial boon the competition has been to the association. And it’s absolutely a crying shame to punish students who haven’t done anything wrong by axing an entire state competition. But this is a dangerous situation, and a message needs to be sent.

If the NMAA decides students, parents and coaches need a time out to learn sportsmanlike conduct — then so be it.

— Albuquerque Journal


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