Interview With Kevin Dustin
Insights On Sportsmanship From A 40 Year Athletics, Teaching and Champion Industry Veteran
ArbiterSports: Kevin, tell us a little bit about yourself and Salt Lake Community College.
Kevin Dustin: I’ve been in the business of education for the last 40 years. I started as an English teacher and a basketball coach and worked my way through various stages and positions in the industry including coaching and administration at the Division 1 level as well as high school and Junior College. I graduated with my bachelor and master’s degrees from Utah State University where I learned how athletics can teach kids many incredibly important life lessons.
Kevin, you are an outright championship coach and administrator; tell us some of those accomplishments.
I’ve been fortunate to have great teams with tremendous parental and administrative support. I’ve had wonderful high school basketball teams, one of which won the state championship in 1994, and at SLCC, some people refer to us as an athletic powerhouse. I can’t disagree with them as we’ve won multiple NJCAA titles in soccer and basketball and are continually nationally ranked in many sports.
You’re quite the legend and although we know you won’t talk about that, we just wanted to list some of your accomplishments because when it comes to sportsmanship, you’ve probably seen it all. You were a 4A Coach of the Year, Assistant Director of the Utah High School Activities Association overseeing baseball, football, basketball and golf, you’ve served on national NFHS Committees, you coached at Utah State, were the Associate Athletic Director at the University, and you forged a partnership with the Utah Jazz. Very impressive!
I’ve been lucky to have worked with very fine people at superb educational institutions. For instance, at SLCC, we have 45,000 students, about 14,000 of them are full-time, and they are dedicated, committed and involved fans.
Obviously, when it comes to sportsmanship, a lot has changed, what are you seeing that’s troubling?
One of the first things, and sometimes we don’t talk about this as often as we should, but there’s a bad rap on parents and coaches, and that’s very accurate, but frankly, the players themselves have changed. Depending on the sport, it’s the players who often times aren’t good sports, and that’s really troubling to me. In Utah, for example, we have a soccer team that is on probation for their lack of sportsmanship and aggressive play.
How has bad sportsmanship impacted the shortage of referees which is a national problem?
No doubt it’s a black eye for high school and college sports. For officials, it’s just not worth being berated for a few bucks a game. So, many of them are walking away from the profession and you can’t blame them. Without quality officiating, you won’t have quality competition. But just as the quality goes down, the quantity of officials is going down, too. That’s a problem even at the Junior College level because high school is our farm system for referees. The shortage can be so problematic that we won’t even schedule our league championship games during a high school contest.
What else are you seeing that’s problematic?
The time has come where you’re going to see two-person basketball officiating crews rather than three-person crews; that’s just a fact. And we continue to see a shortage of female officials, and that’s a real problem. Women make some of the best officials and it’s not just a matter of needing more women refs, we need a lot more of them.
What are the answers, are there any solutions?
Yes, I believe there are some. From my standpoint, police officers, both current and retired, make excellent officials. We need to develop formalized recruitment programs directed to them that call-out the benefits to the officers and to all the others involved from administrators, student-athletes and their parents, to fans, assigners and coaches.
Next we need to implement a mentoring program between older officials and younger ones or even new ones. This will drive-up the quality of officiating, and although we might not be able to stop the attrition, at least we can focus on quality in regard to younger officials.
Lastly, we need to zero in on better and more complete communication, in every direction.
That sounds like a big topic, how so, Kevin?
It is a big conversation, but it needs to happen. And it needs to happen on a very regular basis. Schools need to tell parents that it’s just a game and the game has very little to do with them. An announcement before a game is not enough. It’s no different than classroom teaching; repetition and reminders are essential. Next student-athletes need to discuss this with their parents as only they can, and we need to provide the students with the talking points. It’s a powerful message coming from their kids when they say, “It’s not okay for you to behave badly. It’s great your coming to the games, but be cool.”
I also think that supervisors of officials, as well as the officials, are doing a really good job of game management, and more and more, they are taking matters into their own hands. Officials can have a huge impact on sportsmanship, and if they stop a game, or a match, that sends an extremely loud message to the parents, coaches, fans and administrators. Perhaps, the loudest message of all.