In case you somehow managed to miss the footage of the aftermath of a youth football league game in Pico Rivera, California, the networks showed parents on the playing field engaging in violence that could easily have resulted in death. Two and three parents - including women - ganged up on one person in several instances. Adults kicked others in the face and abdomen as they lay on the ground. And all the while their children watched.
It was disgusting. It was worse than disgusting – it was frightening. It is frightening to think what these kids are learning from these parents. Kids should be able to expect adults to act as positive role models. But more and more parents – and even coaches – are proving to be very negative role models.
I wish I could report that this was an isolated incident, but there have been hundreds of violent episodes involving parents at youth sports events in recent years. This situation received widespread national coverage because a spectator caught every gory detail on videotape, but there have been many others that only made the local news.
Just last month two youth football coaches in Palos Hills, Illinois attacked a teen referee. The head coach was charged with battery for assaulting the 19-year-old referee; the team’s defensive coach was charged with assault for threatening to harm him. And who could forget the two hockey dads whose brawl ended with one dead and the other charged with murder?
Guess what, Dad & Mom? Youth sports are not about you! They’re about the kids. Kids should be able to enjoy baseball, football, hockey and other sports without having to watch their parents make fools of themselves. Sports are supposed to be about learning teamwork, sportsmanship, and above all, having fun. When they see their parents exhibiting the very opposite of sportsmanship it sends them the wrong message, and it takes all the fun out of sports. It also must be very embarrassing to these kids to see their parents acting as bullies and thugs.
In addition to the violence that is sometimes present in youth sports, there is a more pervasive problem. This is the ridiculous pressure parents and some coaches put on children to perform. They treat kid’s sports as if they were college or professional level. They expect their kids to perform perfectly, to win every time and at any cost, and generally take the fun out of the game for the kids.
They scream advice at their kids that is often in conflict with what their coaches have told them. They abuse umpires and referees and shout insults at the opposing team’s players and parents. In general, they make fools of themselves. If they only hurt themselves, I wouldn’t mind so much. But the pressure this behavior puts on their kids is inexcusable.
What can be done to remedy this situation? The National Alliance for Youth Sports (www.NAYS.org), an association of recreation professionals, has some ides. They want all players and their parents to attend orientation sessions that tell about the reason for youth sports, the rules of participation and attendance, and the consequences for breaking the rules.
I have a few other ideas:
1) Ban all alcoholic beverages from youth sports events. Even if the media had not reported that the brawlers at the California football game had been drinking, the videotape would have made it evident. Kids shouldn’t be exposed to the bad example of drinking at their games, and they shouldn’t have to observe the effects of the alcohol consumption.
2) Parents who use abusive, threatening or filthy language - or who abuse game officials - should be warned once, and then banned from future games on the second offense.
3) Make the actual playing field off limits to anyone except the kids and game officials by posting legal “No Trespassing” signs. Have police present to arrest violators.
4) Do a better job of screening coaches, volunteer or paid, and act swiftly to remove abusive coaches. Many great coaches complain about the very actions of parents that I have been discussing here, and most treat the kids well. But there are a few youth coaches who push their players much too hard, and are even abusive toward them.
My regular readers know that I advocate limited government, and I am normally the last one to suggest new ways for government to control us. However, the reason society is able to avoid some laws and regulations is that its members use self-restraint, making such regulation unnecessary. The fact that a growing number of adults are proving themselves incapable of self-restraint argues for reasonable government intervention. The alternative is the abolition of youth sports programs.
Am I over-reacting? I don’t think so. If you watch the footage of the football brawl carefully, you will see young players on the field in the midst of the melee. These children could have been hurt or killed. Many were undoubtedly damaged emotionally by the event. Our children are too precious to allow them to be subjected to the danger represented by the actions of irresponsible adults.
Of course, the underlying problem is the heart attitudes of the parents. If they do not submit their lives to God and live by His Word, their lives will continue to be chaotic. They will continue to be selfish, angry, and disruptive, and their children will learn to live as they do. On the other hand, if they submit themselves to the Lord, He will change their hearts. Then their children will have parents they can look up to and model their lives after.
OUR EDITORS RESPOND
Our Editors often help me improve my articles, and I like to quote them from time to time. The first gave me the idea for this article’s title. The second shares his practical experience with today’s subject.
“The real problem lies with the people involved, the whole megafication of kid’s sports.
The values and attitudes of the parents obviously need to change, and they need to give the games back to the kids. Let the parents stay home! Oh well, that’s just my opinion!
Thanks & God bless,
Editor & Publisher, www.HomeTimes.org”
“Unfortunately, violence is the attitude of the day. Look at the video games, professional wrestling, and the bad boys of hockey. They fight and suffer no consequences. When I coached soccer and football, I told the kids and parents right up front, ‘Any fighting, yelling, cursing or disruptive behavior by a player or a parent, and the child is IMMEDIATELY off the team. If you want your child to play, than make sure you (adults) behave and the children mind.’ After several removals, I held firm. It worked.
Good article. Pastor John.
Dr. John L. Markley”