Violence in Youth Sports
A calm Saturday afternoon at the sports fields, wind blowing, sun shining down, not a cloud in the sky. This is quite possible the perfect day, that is, until they start. The one parent in the back of the crowd or off to the side, the one that argues every call, screams at their own child, and even goes so far as to taunt the other team’s players. This once scarce phenomenon of parents getting out of control has escalated to new levels not only in the number of incidents, but also in the level of severity of these incidents. When children sign up for sports they do it to be with friends, to have fun, and to learn the fundamentals of the game, however this is not what they are getting and this new parental behavior is killing youth sports. It is documented that 14 million of the 20 million kids that play sports starting around age four will quit by age 13, most kids give the same two reasons, negative parents and negative coaches. These adults have turned sports into a negative, joyless experience. What are these events that are happening, what is causing them to happen, and perhaps most importantly what can be done stop this growing trend in parental violence at youth sporting events?
Though some sports are more violent that others as far as play goes, the rising level of violence has not been limited to any particular sport, ranging from non-contact sports like swimming and baseball to contact sports like soccer, football, and hockey. During a girls hockey game in Canada last year a 40 year old man aimed a laser pointer into the eyes of three of his daughter’s opponents, causing them to leave the ice complaining of headaches and flu-like symptoms. The man pleaded guilty in court to mischief and was banned from attending future games. In Pennsylvania a policeman gave a 10-year-old little league pitcher two dollars for hitting an opponent with a fastball, earning him a conviction for the corruption of a minor and solicitation to commit simple assault. In another incident involving a man of the law, a former corrections officer assaulted a 16-year-old referee at a flag football game for six and seven year olds in Nebraska. The tape of the incident shows the 6’3” 250 pound father poking the youth in the chest, when the 160 pound referee tried to defend himself by slapping away the father’s hand, the father punched him the face. As a result he was fined 585 dollars and sentenced to 30 days in jail. The violence isn’t limited to fathers either. At a swim meet an irate mother slapped her daughter across the face after her daughter had shown up late for a heat and been disqualified. The mother never bothered to find out why she missed the heat, but as it turned out the daughter had been comforting a friend who had had a lousy race and was sobbing devastated in the locker room. Again the children are doing nothing wrong, or in this case the absolute right thing, and their parents are making them as a result.