Carlsbad basketball games see seating restrictions due to bad student behavior
Carlsbad basketball fans who attended the first two district games of the season might notice the student section shrunk a little bit, and isn't as rowdy.
This started before the district schedule began when Carlsbad High School Athletic Director James Johns decided to bar students from sitting on the bottom row of the bleachers during games.
For the Cavegirls’ game against Clovis on Jan. 29 and the Cavemen’s game against Roswell on Feb. 1, the front row of middle bleachers usually designated for the CHS student body was banned, Johns said, because several students repeatedly were being escorted from games due to improper behavior towards the opposing team, its fans and officials.
“I’ll make this clear. Our kids are awesome,” Johns said. “We just know that a few can cause problems for the rest of us. We’ve got great kids, but there were four or five kids who kept showing up (to games) and they kept breaking the rules."
“I have security down there. We’re nice. We’ll tell you a few times, but then we’ll remove you. It got to the point where as the AD I’m responsible as a game administrator. I’m responsible to the NMAA. Nothing broke down, I just felt like my intervention needed to be one where we’re better than that, before I allow kids to go back to the court.”
It may seem like a small measure to simply not allow people to sit in one row of bleachers, but Johns said he knows the psychological effect stepping down a level has on people.
“You’re not going to step off the bleachers (on to the floor),” he said. “But if you’re on the floor, you’ll take two or three steps (closer). You can get in the way. When a kid goes down you might be a little closer than we want.”
Boys basketball coach Jamaal Brown agrees with the safety aspect of the bleacher rules for the players.
“It’s all about safety first for the players on the court,” Brown said. “They’ve earned the right to represent their community on that court and we have to protect them.
“I think we have one of the best student sections in the state and we encourage students come and get loud for their friends. I love the passion the students bring. Saying that, we want that done with integrity. We want our kids to be cheering for us, not cheering against the other team.”
Three years ago, Johns and his staff had to make the same temporary ban.
The ban was put in place following Carlsbad’s game against Portales on Jan. 22 when several people in the student section were asked to leave during the varsity game between the Cavemen and Rams.
“I was gone for the Portales game,” Johns said. “I heard it got rough and I knew something had to be done because I received a ton of phone calls that night. I spoke with a few officials and I spoke at length with Coach Zumbrun about him multiple times. Things got worse and I felt like I needed to take that extra step.”
The two-game ban seemed to do its job because Johns is removing the restriction for Friday’s game between the No. 1 Hobbs Lady Eagles (21-1) and the No. 5 Carlsbad Cavegirls (20-2) at 7 p.m.
Johns considers this a tryout period based on what he’s seen the students do during the last two games but did warn that if the bad behavior returns he will once again impose the seating ban.
“I’m watching and monitoring their behavior,” he said. “I want the kids to know that if they understand if we can’t have them act the way we’re asking them to, we’ll move them back. I want them to demonstrate the behavior we’re looking for when we put them back there, which they did the last game (against Roswell).
“The final piece I was looking for was a few students who I wanted to come visit with me and talk about handling their friends. Who’s better at correcting student’s behavior than other students? There are some kids I’ve spoken to that have come forward and have told me that if they see a kid that’s getting too far on the court, as a classmate they’ll say something.”
Johns knows there’s a fine line between allowing a passionate crowd to give the Cavemen a home-court advantage and a crowd that can put lives in danger.
“I know it makes our place tougher to play, but we don’t want to infringe on the spirit of the sportsmanship,” he said. “We never broke it, but I felt like I had to do something to protect us and to get the situation managed better.
“I want to compete with class. I think our students should compete with class. If I’m expecting my coaches and players to compete with class, we all have to buy into that program and compete with class.”
Matthew Asher can be reached at 575-628-5524, Masher@currentargus.com or @Caveman_Masher on Twitter.