San Antonio withered in the national spotlight after a high school football game in Marble Falls, TX on Sept. 4 where two football players from John Jay High School blindsided a referee and knocked him down to the ground. CTJ Athletic Director Ron Rittimann has used the incident to coach his players about sportsmanship.
“I have spoken to the players, and I’ve been coaching 27 years and that’s something I’ve never even had to tell the kids. And at Johnson they [football players] know better than to do that because, when I did address them, you could tell that in their facial expressions that I didn’t need to say it,” Athletic Director Ron Rittimann said. “But I did go ahead and remind them again that it’s never going to be acceptable to do anything like that to a referee, whether it’s physical or verbal.”
Many athletic personnel and athletes have a certain set of ethics and morals they abide by. It’s an unwritten rule that players should not lay a hand on the referees, let alone blindside hit the referee.
“Well, I think referees are generally protected anyway because, like I said, just in ethics alone, and the way you respect the game, the way you respect officials regardless of what sport it is, they’re [referees] always protected that they should never be physically or verbally assaulted or abused; so this is a great reminder. Will they write something down? It could change the way certain things are written and our code of ethics and athletics in general. It’s never going to be okay,” Rittimann said.
And while the investigation is still ongoing, the video on the incident continues to gain attention online and on television leaving the district and UIL to consider the actions of an assistant coach, a referree and two players.
“Well, there is always two sides to every story, and now with social media you get to see the video of what really happened and everybody jumps to the conclusion of what they saw-which was terrible. There’s not a time or place that this should have ever taken place. But I think without knowing all the information that went into it, it’s hard to really judge somebody or decide the degree to which that was wrong because without a doubt, it was wrong and there has to be something done so that it never happens again,” Rittimann said. “And you hate for two kids to be the example for something like that but they have to discipline those kids so that it sends a strong enough message, and no high school football player ever does that again.”
At the end of the day, football is still just a game, a game which needs to be played with respect for the rules, players and officials, according to Rittmann.
“Well, I hope what people take away is just to remember that it’s still just a game, we play high school football, and in Texas, high school football is huge- crazy huge! But at the end of the night, it’s a game. It’s meant to be played to have fun; there’s a camaraderie among the players and there’s a healthy respect for the rules of the game, there’s a healthy respect for your opponent, there’s a healthy respect for your own teammates, and there’s always ways of dealing with these relationships,” Rittimann said.
And even though this incident did not occur at an NEISD high school, the lessons that can be learned from this incident could help to ensure something like this never occurs again.
“There’s so many life lessons being taught that I hope everybody takes all the positives away from this, whether it’s a reminder or if you need to make a change in the approach you play the game. So I’m hoping when this all shakes loose and they take care of what happened at John Jay, that the Johnson Jaguars have learned something from the experience also, and they don’t have to go through that,” Rittimann said.