The other day while running errands, I was listening to ESPN Radio (yes, women like ESPN too) and it was a story on violence in youth sports. Because my sons are young, I guess I hadn’t paid much attention to the growing trend of violence in youth sports. After listening to the story and doing research on my own, I am disheartened by how some parents act during their kid’s sports activities.
In the small town where I was raised (650 population), there were a couple of fathers that come to mind. Those two men were always yelling at their kids — not encouraging them, they would yell at the coaches, they would yell at the referees — it was an embarrassment to our town. Both fathers had very athletic kids, but in their eyes they were never good enough.
A couple of years ago, our oldest son played flag football, during one of his games, there was a father yelling obscenities at his child (playing on the other team) — these kids were 7 and 8 years old. His son wasn’t the only one hearing what he was saying, all the kids on the field, and everyone on the sidelines. It was towards the end of the game, so he wasn’t removed from the field, but again, I was appalled by his behavior.
Here are a few examples of parents rage during youth sporting events:
1. May 2000, a police officer in Pennsylvania paid a 10-year-old Little League pitcher $2 to throw his fastball at the opposing team’s clean-up hitter. The pitcher threw the ball and hit the batter, taking him out of the game. The police officer was charged with solicitation to commit simple assault and corruption of a minor. *From The Spokesman Review.
2. May 2013, a Little League manager is charged with two counts of simple assault after he slapped a teen umpire who had ejected him from the game. *From The Asbury Park Press.
These are just two examples, if you look on the Internet, there are stories and videos from all sports showing parents, fans, kids all taking out their aggression on opposing players, coaches, referees, umpires, etc. These injuries have led to deaths — just recently a 17 year old punched a referee during a soccer game in Utah because he didn’t like being handed a yellow card for rough play. He punched the referee in the face so violently that it led to the man’s death. This 17 year old is now charged with homicide.
Why the violence? Do most parents expect their son or daughter to be the next superstar? Are they trying to secure a sports scholarship to college? Are they trying to live out their own sports failures through their children? Is there more violence in youth sports these days or just more media attention?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but here are a couple of stats to ponder: Less than 3.5 percent of high school seniors will go on to play sports at an NCAA college and less than 1 percent will go on to play professionally.
How do we help our kids in youth sports? Teaching them sportsmanship, to be a gracious loser and winner, to HAVE FUN. Respecting the officials, even when they make a bad call, everyone makes mistakes.
I know that the local sports we have participated in the parents must sign a “Code of Conduct” agreement. I always sign and adhere to the policy, I cheer for my sons, their friends and teammates. We have had wonderful coaches and parent volunteers showing my boys the importance of having fun and enjoying the sport.
I don’t know if either one of our sons will be a sports superstar, but if they are, I hope to teach them to be respectful of everyone helping them along their journey.
• Leah Derewicz is a 15-year Ahwatukee Foothills resident. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.