2000-12-07 / Other News

Latest Trend In Public Rage Affecting School Sports

By Frederick M. Baron
Latest Trend In Public Rage Affecting School Sports By Frederick M. Baron

By Frederick M. Baron

You may have heard or read about the sad and distressing case in Massachusetts involving two fathers whose rage erupted after their sons’ youth hockey practice. One man was beaten unconscious and died. The other man was indicted on manslaughter charges.

For many across the country, this case was a wake-up call. It sounded the alarm to acknowledge and take action against and unfortunate trend that’s been growing in youth sports - the occurrence of sports rage.

Examples of sports rage from the pas year include a Maryland father who kicked a baseball coach; parents who fought one another after a boys soccer tournament in Massachusetts; and a North Carolina mother who attacked a soccer referee.

According to Fred Engh, president of the national Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) and author of Why Johnny Hates Sports, parents behave inappropriately and violently at their children’s sporting events because "no one ever told them they couldn’t."

"No parent stands up at a spelling bee and yells, ‘That’s an easy word - you can’t miss it!’ Or at a piano recital screams, ‘I know you know that note don’t let me down. You’re not going to miss this one," says Engh.

"Standards must be raised," Engh says. He believes that in order to raise the bar for behavior, youth sports leagues need administrators who will tell people what is and what is not acceptable behavior.

Engh, who founded NAYS in 1981 as an organization to train volunteer coaches, has expanded the training program to encompass the needs of parents and youth sports administrators who lease park and recreation facilities. According to NYS, approximately 90 percent of all volunteer administrators, however, have not received even one minute of training on how to manage youth sports programs.

Parents who are worried about youth sports violence should go to their local sports league and ask what standards, if any, the league has in lace.

"Ask what kind of training the local volunteers have had," says Engh. "Is there a youth sports supervisor who is going to provide training, accountability, and enforcement? That’s what you need."

To those who question the notion of a sports supervisor, Engh asks, "If it’s important to have a superintendent of schools, why isn’t it important to have a supervisor of life-learning."

Youth sports, Engh believes, is all about life-learning-teamwork, sportsmanship, following rules, discipline, training, and how to win and lose with grace.

Easier said than done? Not so, according to NAYS, which this October launches a national campaign called "Time Out" to promote its training and awareness program for sports administrators, volunteer coaches, and parents.

The NAYS strategy requires that people who request or apply for field space from the local parks and recreation department go through a training program that promotes sportsmanship and accountability. Coaches go through a certification process and their names are placed in a national data bank. Parents who want their children to play in local sports leagues must attend an orientation session - which includes watching a video about behavior and parental responsibilities - and sign a parents’ code of ethics. If the parent does not attend the program and sign the code, the child cannot participate.

According to NAYS the programs for coaches, administrators, and parents are already being used successfully in more than 2,500 cities nationwide, The "Time Out: initiative will encourage other cities to get on board and do the same.

Fore more information about ending sports rage ad keeping youth sports fun, safe, and stress-free, contact the national Alliance for Youth Sports at (800) 688-KIDS or www.nays.org

Fore more health and safety information and tips, please visit ATLA’s "Keep Our Families Safe" Web site at http://familysafety.atla.org.

Frederick M. Baron, president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, is a partner in the Dallas law firm of Baron & Budd, P.C.

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