SPORTS COLUMN: True fans unite to promote positive behavior in high school sports

Published 3:15 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

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Attention, high school sports fans!

Not those of you who are disrespectful, volatile and even violent at athletic events. No, we’re talking to parents and fans who behave appropriately and understand the true purpose of high school sports.

This message is for you, but we hope all will listen.

Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff, NFHS Executive Director

First off, we want to thank you: For not yelling at the officials every time you don’t like a call. For not ruining high school sports for your child by making it all about you. For not contributing to the bad fan behavior epidemic that is putting high school sports at risk.

In other words, thank you for setting a positive example of what a true high school sports fan looks like.

Like you, we’re tired of seeing games canceled because of brawls in the stands. We’re tired of entitled fans who think they can say and do anything they want. We’re tired of high school athletic events being clouded by negativity, immaturity and aggressive behavior.

Let’s not let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. They may be a loud minority, but let’s make sure our actions speak louder.

Consider this your rallying cry — to continue setting the tone for your school community, to continue being role models and positive behavior trailblazers, to continue being part of the solution and not part of the problem.

For those of us who just want to watch our kids play and grow, there’s strength in numbers. It’s time to stand up and say enough is enough. It’s time to proclaim what our schools stand for — and what they won’t. It’s time to protect high school sports.

  • Let’s unite to restore civility in our schools and make it clear we will not accept bad behavior as the norm.
  • Let’s join together to represent the values, standards and life lessons that high school sports teach like integrity, respect and empathy.
  • Let’s preserve the environment where our students learn, grow and compete. When bad fan behavior rears its ugly head in our schools and games are canceled, everyone loses – especially our students.

The bottom line: This is about character. The way we behave at high school athletic events says a lot about who we are.

Ready to stand together? The NFHS has partnered with state high school associations across the country to promote the #BenchBadBehavior campaign.

Visit to get free resources like social media posts, videos, flyers and more to help set the tone for your school community. Together, we can urge everyone to #BenchBadBehavior at high school athletic events for good!

Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff is in her fifth year as chief executive officer of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the first female to head the national leadership organization for high school athletics and performing arts activities and the sixth full-time executive director of the NFHS. She previously was executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference for seven years.