It’s Spring, and many of us in the United States are practicing #SafeAtHome while we fight the spread of COVID-19. We dream of the day we once again fill sports fields, arenas and stadiums to watch our favorite teams play – both pro and youth sports. And we will.
So let’s take this time at home to reflect on the impact of our (adults) behavior in the stands and on the sidelines, and commit to come back together in a more positive spirit.
In January two fathers were arrested following a fight at a high school hockey game in Connecticut. Unfortunately, their story isn’t unique.
- A basketball referee was assaulted at a girls elementary school game in Ohio.
- A violent confrontation at a youth football game in Washington had a referee literally running for his life as parents aggressively chased him off the field and to his car.
- Ugly episodes involving female athletes and physical altercations took place at high school basketball games in New Jersey.
- Spectators swarmed onto the field after a rumor spread about an active shooter at a soccer tournament in California.
- A bench-clearing brawl spread throughout the startled crowd and sparked multiple violent skirmishes at a Kansas State University basketball game against University of Kansas.
While the age groups, genders, sports, and levels of competition may vary, there is one common theme here. Uncontrolled aggression is ruining the sports experience for everyone.
Parents need to immediately stop the propensity to assault and incite disorderly conduct at youth sporting events. Instead of reverting to profanities and even violence, parents need to practice the P.E.A.C.E. method:
Parents must understand that mistakes will be made during an athletic contest. It is a part of the learning experience for everyone. No one is infallible! Young athletes and officials don’t need the added stress of constant yelling and verbal abuse. Therefore, it is imperative to demonstrate patience and reserve judgment.
Parents should applaud the efforts of their children as well as the efforts of the adults involved in youth sports. Recognize that everyone–from the young athletes to the officials to the staff running the event site–are all doing their best.
Before a parent says something derogatory about a play or call they should take a quick inventory of their own behaviors. How would you feel if you were on the receiving end of your actions or words? Put yourself in the shoes of the players on both teams as well as the adults supporting them. Many of the adults involved are volunteering their time to provide your child with a positive experience.
Parents need to learn one important lesson: never embarrass your child at a sporting event! A golden rule of being a sports parent is never drawing more attention to yourself than your child. Don’t be that parent who is not in control of their emotions and is living vicariously through their child. Screaming at an official and constant harassment is a poor reflection on your child. An out of control parent adds more stress to the youth sports experience for everyone. A calm and reserved approach will benefit your child
Parents should thoroughly enjoy their child’s youth sports experience! They should cheer loudly, laugh, have fun, and smile. Parents should set the emotional temperature for the sporting event: a tone of high energy and enthusiasm with respect. It’s ok to boo a bad call, be frustrated, and lament missed opportunities if it is in the spirit of friendly competition without malicious intent.
Be passionate and respectful! Focus your energy and spirit into cheering for your child’s team. They need all your attention, love, support, and passion!
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