Sportsmanship is a hot topic these days, and the Fairfield County Basketball League (FCBL)–in which Wilton Basketball Association (WBA) 4th through 8th grade boys’ and girls’ travel teams participate–has revised its rules of conduct, specifically surrounding technical fouls that are committed by players, coaches…and parents. Not only do technical fouls now need to be reported by league teams to the FCBL, but there are also stricter penalties that will be imposed against teams and individuals involved.

Technical fouls can be called on players who break a rule in ways other than through physical contact while the ball is in play. But fouls committed by non-players are also considered technical fouls, such as when a coach yells at an umpire, or a parent fights with another parent on the sidelines. Those are extreme examples but any behavior that is unsportsmanlike can merit a technical foul.

According to materials the FCBL sent to all league programs and teams, the new technical foul policy is being implemented to take a stand against bad behavior by everyone:

“In youth sports, there is a high tolerance for the normal, expected violations of rules because players are learning the game. But there is and should be far less tolerance for conduct that detracts from the positive, nurturing, and instructive environment to which the FCBL aspires.”

Before, FCBL rules asked coaches to report only ejections that happened in games. Now, the rules mandate that all technical fouls also must be reported to the FCBL director of discipline, within 24 hours of the game–every technical foul, without exception. Head coaches have the responsibility to report their team’s own fouls, and teams and coaches that fail to do so may face discipline, including game suspensions. Not only that, but opposing teams are encouraged to also send reports to confirm the incidents–and possibly catch any team that fails to report them.

Joe Heinzmann, the FCBL director of discipline, says there wasn’t a specific incident or series of incidents that prompted the change in policy. There were two main drivers behind it.

“First, the act of self-reporting a technical foul has elements of both acceptance of responsibility and a commitment to do better. Having our coaches and teams report their technical fouls is an opportunity for introspection and self-improvement,” Heinzmann says.

The second reason, he says, is that reporting all technical fouls allows the league to track repeat offenders, teams or programs that may have sportsmanship issues. “It gives us the opportunity to address areas that are repeated week to week. For example, if we see a large number of flagrant fouls on breakaway layups in fifth grade girls, we can alert the coaches as a group and ask that they provide teaching emphasis in this area.”

The most significant change in the rules, however, is that once a player, coach or parent commits more than two technical fouls, they’ll receive a mandatory suspension; each additional technical foul will earn more suspensions.

“Prior to this season, it was theoretically possible to receive a technical foul in every game, but never be suspended. As a board, we identified and debated some of these instances, and examined how they may have affected the League. Participants who receive single technical fouls on multiple occasions should suffer consequences beyond the in game consequence because our goals are to maintain the highest level of sportsmanship and development for players and coaches,” Heinzmann says.

While the league has imposed suspensions before when anyone has stepped over the sportsmanship line over the years, it’s been rare, and Heinzmann says that there are many more positive things to say about the level of sportsmanship than negative.

“This policy should not be interpreted as an indication that there are profound or pervasive issues within the League. We are simply trying to make a good thing better.”

Wilton Basketball Association and Technical Fouls

No program is immune to occasional flare ups of unsportsmanlike conduct. Eric Weiner, the WBA’s representative to the FCBL, says Wilton’s program has only had rare instances of such technical fouls.

“We take great pride in emphasizing sportsmanship by our players, our coaches, and of course our parents. We’ve been fortunate over the past several years to be regarded as a competitive program that focuses on player growth and development and have had only rare instances of technical fouls which have always been taken seriously and addressed by our leadership,” he says.

Nonetheless, Weiner says it’s a critical issue that the league should be out front on. “I think the focus on technical fouls is long overdue and certainly welcomed by the WBA.”

He says the WBA plans to fully adhere to the policy and all coaches and parents have been informed of the new FCBL technical foul rules.

“We have always asked our players, coaches, and parents to exercise restraint with any on court issues focus on sportsmanship while competing aggressively. At the beginning of each season we send out the WBAs expectations regarding sportsmanship and our players sign agreements that they understand and agree to our policies,” Weiner says, adding, “We expect our WBA program participants at all levels to exhibit best in class sportsmanship at every game. They represent the town of Wilton and we take great pride in that.”

But nobody’s perfect, and technical fouls do, on occasion, happen.

When it does, says Weiner, “We will evaluate each incident on a case by case basis and will not tolerate anyone associated with the WBA being disrespectful to opposing players, coaches, parents or referees. It’s our duty to demonstrate to our youth travel players that sportsmanship is one of our main goals and we should represent our great town in the best possible manner.”