Please read this one and then answer the question I pose at the end. It has to do with parental behavior at the game.


6 Responses to “Please read this one and then answer the question I pose at the end. It has to do with parental behavior at the game.”

  1. November 24, 2009 at 1:47 PM

    A group of parents rushed the field yelling, swinging their fists.

    In the background were crying children, including Jeff Reed’s 9-year-old nephew who was supposed to be celebrating his Indio Bulldogs’ win in the Southern California Junior All American Football League Superbowl game in Indio.

    “It was heartbreaking,” Reed said, recalling the brawl that happened a year ago this week. “It was just absolutely disgusting. These parents are supposed to be role models.”

    The fight began after two Alta Loma Warriors parents accused the Indio Bulldogs of cheating and began chasing after referees, causing others in the stands to flood the field.

    The 10-minute melee was caught on video and quickly posted on YouTube – just one example of what was supposed to be a fun game gone bad.

    To address what has become the dark side of youth sports, Coachella Valley coaches and youth sports leagues have instituted a few changes, including forms that parents have to sign, promising to stay positive and, in some cases, silent when problems arise.

    “There’s always going to be a minor incident when a parent gets overly competitive,” said Andrew Nielsen, regional commissioner for La Quinta AYSO – the largest American Youth Soccer Organization league in the valley with more than 1,700 players.

    “But it’s our job, as well as other parents, to try and restrict that behavior.”


    About 60 percent of American children play in sports leagues each year, and nearly 80 percent will quit by age 12.

    They’ll never “return again, and the No. 1 reason when surveyed is because it’s just not fun anymore,” said Dr. Casey Cooper, a licensed psychologist in Orange County who specializes in sports culture.

    “Leagues need to make sure that the parents understand that winning should be a side effect, not the main goal,” she said.

    AYSO National in 2000 created the Kids Zone program specifically to prevent negative, overzealous and sometimes hostile parents from interfering in games, said Sahar Milani, a spokeswoman for the group.

    Each season, parents are asked to sign forms that state that they pledge to abide by Kids Zone standards, which include no swearing, no yelling in anger and respecting the volunteer referees, Milani said.

    AYSO leagues may institute “Silent Saturdays” to keep parents from “sideline coaching.” That has yet to happen in La Quinta, Nielsen said.

    But it’s virtually impossible to “police” parents’ behavior, Milani said.

    Shaun Clark of Indio, who was a former La Quinta AYSO coach, executive board member and referee administrator, said he quit last season because he was fed up with “personal attacks from parents” on and off the field.

    “I just couldn’t stand the parents who said they don’t have time to volunteer, (but who) would badger and belittle the people doing the work,” Clark said.

    Tina Syer, associate director for Positive Coaching Alliance, a Mountain View-based nonprofit group that aims to help groups create a positive, youth sports environment, said this scenario is all too common.

    “There’s a shortage of officials and coaches for youth sport leagues because they often find that they wouldn’t want to volunteer to take this kind of abuse,” Syer said.

    Parental pressure could hurt morale

    Cooper, host of “The Dr. Casey Show,” a Sunday call-in radio show dedicated to sports psychology on AM 830, said she’s seen children as young as age 8 visit her private practice in Orange County for performance anxiety.

    “Many feel, ‘If I win, my parents are happy and therefore I’m loved,’ and they begin to connect the outcome of their performance to how worthy of a person they are,” she said.

    Cooper referred to recent headlines about tennis star Andre Agassi, whose new book “Open” describes the pressure and abuse by his father to play tennis.

    “So many professional athletes are now coming out about these negative relationships they have with their parents because of this pressure to win,” she said. “And sadly, I hear this on a regular basis.”

    But Cooper added that it’s not just the pressures of the immediate parent that can taint the experience.

    “Sometimes kids will overhear other parents speaking poorly about kids when playing and they assume that when they’re out playing, they’re being judged,” she said.

    “So in some instances, it may not even be the immediate parents of the child causing the stress, but the people around them.”

    In Cooper’s experience, which spans more than a decade working with athletes of all ages, she’s discovered that the closer the parents are to the action, the more likely the children in that sport develop anxiety and depression issues.

    “That goes for sports like swimming, tennis, softball, baseball. If you think about it, parents are right next to the dugout,” she said. “And how can a child concentrate or have fun if they are getting yelled at?”

    Clark, who also has family involved with the Palm Desert/La Quinta Football league, said he’s witnessed the “most appalling sportsmanship” during games and thought a fight was going to break out at a football game just two weeks ago.

    “The actions by the parents, the comments by the parents – I mean, I’ve seen parents verbally attacking kids on the teams and these are 10-year-olds,” Clark said. “It’s horrible.”

    Indio native Robert Pickowitz, a La Quinta Youth Sports Winter League Baseball coach who played baseball throughout college, recalls those “sideline coaches” and seeing heated disputes between other parents and coaches or umpires.

    “I always promised myself that I would never be like that,” he said. “But I was real fortunate because we had a strong family unit. When those types of incidents happened, we talked about it and they made sure we knew that it was not proper behavior.”

    The Positive Coaching Alliance call those times “teachable moments,” and not every example has to be a negative one, Syer said.

    “When you watch Kobe (Bryant) pick up a player off the floor, tell your child that that’s an example of good sportsmanship,” she said.

    The Positive Coaching Alliance is a nonprofit organization within the Stanford University Athletic Department that was established in 1998 “because we wanted to address the dark side of youth sports,” Syer said.

    “We really believe that parents and coaches were starting to take more of a win-at-all-costs mentality,” Syer said. “But if we can get coaches and parents to focus on the life lessons, we can keep the fun in sports.”

    Sportsmanship pledges

    The American Youth Soccer Organization, the largest single-entity youth soccer association in the nation, created the Kids Zone Parents Pledge in 2000 to address a growing problem of disorderly conduct by parents.

    Here are highlights from the pledge and other tips that youth sports experts say can apply to any youth sport from soccer to softball and tennis:

    Redefine what is to be a “winner” by telling your child that a winner is someone who plays their best, continues to learn and improve, and does not allow mistakes, or fear of making mistakes, to stop them.

    Be a role model for good sportsmanship by showing respect for all involved in the game.

    Refrain from being a “sideline coach” because shouting out instructions can confuse and discourage your child.

    Stay positive and focus on the positives. Instead of asking your child who won after the game, ask about his/her best play.

    Understand that it’s just a game and that ultimately it’s about fun, fitness and learning new skills.

    In this article, someone states that “policing the parents is virtually impossible”. Please let me know if you agree with this or disagree and let me know why. This is a question that has existed forever and we need to nail it down if we’re ever going to alleviate these problems.

    • 2 Stephen
      November 30, 2009 at 5:26 PM

      Great Article. My son is 12 years old and is a big and strong looking for his age and whenever he plays in a game the other coaches always question how old he is. My son gets very discouraged by this and it takes alot of pumping him up from myself and his mother to keep him focused and having fun. It taks alot of restraint for me to keep my mouth shut when i hear other coaches and parents questioning my son’s age and the reason it makes me so mad is becasue it is indirectly a jab at our parenting, that we would allow such a thing to go on, bottom line now his coaches carry birth certificates with them just in case this come sup again, so i can totally relate to this article. I liked the part about the parents being to close to the dugout. Me and a couple of other Dads make sure we stay away and lket the coaches coach and do not get even close to the dugout unless one of our kids gets hurt. I have seen maybe teams where the parents feel like they are part of the coaching team and can say what they think is right and forget the coaches.

    • 3 Stephen
      November 30, 2009 at 5:38 PM

      policing the parents is very possible, our coaches had a parent only meeting before our season started and told every parent that if they got out of line and said anything to the umps or other players or their own kids that the coacjes felt was inappropriate that they would be given one warning and after that told not to come to anymore games. In cooperstown we had one parent so degrade his kid that the kid was a bucket of tears and the coaches asked the dad to take it easy, but he said it was his kid and he could say what he wants. The dad said what he had to say but was so furious with his kid for striking out that he left him in cooperstown and went home and left the kid in the care of the coaches. Now that is absurd.

  2. 4 Eric
    November 24, 2009 at 2:56 PM

    Great article. The sentence that rings true to me is “We really believe that parents and coaches were starting to take more of a win-at-all-costs mentality,” Syer said. “But if we can get coaches and parents to focus on the life lessons, we can keep the fun in sports.”

    I have heard parents justify the “win at all costs mentality” buy saying that when they get to High School there is no guarnteed playing time. So they should learn about that now. This was mentioned ini refernece to an 11 year old team. It’s funny how these statements are only made by the parents of the “superstar” athletes. One such parent preaches this as the coach of one sport but then gets on the “my son should have more playing time” line in another sport. Same kid just 2 different sports. Funny how the rules change when you’re not the coach or in a position to determine who plays.

    The directors of the youth sports programs need to buy in to the concept that this is development youth sports and winning should not be the end all goal. If they do, they will direct their coaches properly and it will trickle down. The parents who do not buy in will be able to find a program, somewhere, for their superstars.

  3. 5 Anonymous
    November 24, 2009 at 3:39 PM

    Policing the parents is not impossible. But it takes effort, and it is tough to “police the parents” when leagues and league directors are unwilling to police their own coaches. This is not meant to attack coaches – I am one. But we all know coaches in our own towns that are part of the problem, not the solution. And you need a league that is willing to set a rule and enforce it, not turn the other cheek regardless of who is involved.

  4. November 25, 2009 at 10:28 AM

    two great points. The fact is, policing parents and coaches is really pretty easy. All it takes is commitment and dedication to doing what’s best for the kids. If you use that as your driving mindset, then any decisions that need to be made regarding behavior and conduct become easy.

    In this case, as a league director or coach or parent, you simply ask yourself, “If it’s permissable for parents to go onto the field for any reason other than to see if their own child is injured, is that in the best interest of the kids as a whole?”

    The reason we’re seeing such a decline in volunteer coaches and officials is because the league director don’t have enough policies in place to punish the people who make it an unenjoyable experience.

    As I’ve stated many times, zero tolerance is a great way to do away with the people who cause the problems. My motto is, “strike one, you’re out!” We’re all adults and even though many of us don’t always act that way, we all know what to do when there are clear consequences laid out for our actions. It’s when league directors get weak in the knees and bend the rules that people start to take advantage and do things they’re not supposed to.

    There will always be idiots who don’t understand the importance of developing young kids and only worry about winning and Eric pointed out something interesting. It’s usually the parents of kids who are fairly adept at younger ages. They simply worry more about making sure their kid is playing shortstop and batting third and getting his/her batting average up. Little do these folks know that their kids are the ones who tend to give up on sports at a much younger age because they’ve never been taught properly. But hey, I guess you can always print out little Jimmy’s or little Sally’s stats from 9 year old peewees and hang them on the fridge when they quit at the ripe old age of 13 or 14.

    Let’s step it up folks. We all know how we’re supposed to behave. Now let’s start holding one another accountable for it.

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