Warning Cards Come to Baseball

By Staff

Coaching Management, 14.2, February 2006, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1402/bbwarningcards.htm

The yellow card is a traditional warning on a soccer field. But in some places, it’s also a caution for fan misbehavior.

At Springfield High School in Akron, Ohio, Athletic Director Ray Fowler began giving out yellow warning cards for over-the-line spectator behavior during the 2004-05 basketball season and plans to have them ready this year for baseball, where he believes they may be especially helpful in curbing rude comments toward umpires. The 3x5 cards are printed with a statement that student-athletes deserve positive support, and that continued rude comments or poor sportsmanship may result in ejection from the game.

The cards seem to work, Fowler says, mainly because the message on them helps the fan to think about his or her behavior without forcing a confrontation. “It simply says, ‘We appreciate your attendance at our events. Our participants need your positive support and encouragement. Abusive behavior toward players, coaches, or officials will not be tolerated. If your behavior continues, you will be asked to leave.’

“The nice thing about it is you avoid the verbal conflict,” Fowler continues. “The person you’re warning is pretty heated up, and this gives them an opportunity to realize what they’re doing. If somebody doesn’t want to take the warning, they’ve been warned, and you go from there.”

Fowler got the idea during a fishing trip with a fellow athletics administrator from Wisconsin. The conversation turned to poor sportsmanship, and Fowler’s buddy mentioned a carding program being used in neighboring Minnesota. Fowler called the Minnesota State High School League, which encouraged him to borrow the idea. He also credits similar procedures he’s heard of in Maine.

Springfield has expanded yellow-carding to all sports. The system is explained to student-athletes and parents before each sport season and reviewed at parents’ preseason meetings. Last year, word of the cards spread through the community, Fowler found, and most spectators were eventually aware of them. This year, he didn’t have to use any during the fall sports season. “It’s kind of like that slap on your hand you don’t want to get,” he says.

Fowler advises reserving card duty to the administrator in charge of game management, not police or security, since the idea is to head off the need to involve those authorities. Further, be as unobtrusive as possible, he recommends. “You’re not confronting the person as much as just handing them the card,” he says. “You simply walk up to them, give them a card, and walk away.”