Bad Behavior


Anyone who has ever been in customer service understands that customers can sometimes challenge even the most patient of people.  This is never more true than in the racing business.  Take a competitive event and mix it with type A people and you have a great recipe for some really  great outbursts.  This is especially true where youth is involved.  Every race director, timer, meet coordinator, etc. knows and has seen the behavior that comes from the participants.  Not the youth mind you, but the parents and the coaches.  The behavior sometimes can devolve into complety childish behavior which is embarrassing to them and their charges.  You see it at little league games, soccer matches, football, youth triathlons and especially cross-country meets.  We also see it at mostly adult races such as triathlons but can also experience bad behavior at regular running events.

It's really difficult to understand the attitude that I often see from participants in an event.  The race directors will often say afterwards, "it is just a race and for a good cause. Why are they getting so upset?".  That's a good question.  It is certainly understable the frustration that can occur when things go wrong: course was marked incorrectly; not enough water, lack of volunteers, timing issues, registration issues, etc.., but when these happen it is an easy fix to simply talk to the director calmly and work to get it rectified.  There is never a good reason to throw a tantrum.

I was recently at an event where a few students accidentally cut the course.  It was at a cross-country meet and it was an honest mistake.  The course was somewhat confusing with all of the loops and a few students simply went the wrong direction.  They came across the finish line a little faster than they probably should but given their placement it would not have affected the overall outcome.  A coach immediately starting throwing a tantrum about it and telling anyone who who would listen.  The race director of course caved in and disqualified those individuals.  Now we have a bigger issue with the coaches from those teams.  They start yelling and throwing their own fits about it.  We finally realized that it would not have affected any outcome so we just put the athletes back in and posted results as if it had never happened.  The question that I kept coming back to though was why?  Why were the coaches throwing tantrums?  Why couldn't they have simply come over and explained the situation and worked to resolve it peacefully?  Maybe there was money on the line (not).  Maybe there were huge scholarships riding on the outcome (not).  It came down to simple bragging rights.  I get it as I have competed in many races myself, but there is never a good reason for bad behavior when things don't go right.

As a competitor, please understand that things happen and don't always go right.  Remain calm and work to resolve it amicably.  Race directors are reasonable people and want to make sure that everything runs smoothly.  When things don't, they want to fix it as best as possible.  Help them rather than beat them.