Hey, sports parents, let’s remember — it’s all about the kids

Dr. David L. Chancey's picture

An Easter egg hunt annually attended by hundreds of children in Colorado Springs, Colo., was cancelled this year because of misbehavior. Not by the kids, but by the over zealous parents.

Last year, too many parents anxious to help their children gather plastic eggs filled with candy and store coupons jumped the ropes marking the boundaries. What was designed as a fun activity for kids turned into a fiasco of adults acting badly.

Sounds like Little League parents. Last June, a baseball tournament for 12-year-olds became ugly in Castle Rock, Colo., when a bad call turned into an all out brawl. Police arrested three people, one with a lengthy criminal record, and another who is the town’s prosecutor.

In Minnesota, a former West St. Paul city councilman apologized for remarks made during a Little League baseball game. The grandfather of eight disrupted a 9- and 10-year-old boys’ championship when he yelled at an umpire.

“I just got a little carried away with my mouth to an umpire that made a call,” the public official said. “I was embarrassed and want to apologize to everybody.”

Another mom in suburban New York was accused last summer of sending threatening letters to Little League officials because her son didn’t make a baseball travel team. She was arrested on charges of stalking, falsely reporting an incident and endangering the welfare of a child after sending “letters of a threatening nature” to the official and his young son, according to police.

Sometimes it’s not the parent, but the coach. Last May, Fletcher, N. C., police charged a former assistant baseball coach with assault on a sports official after they say he punched a 16-year-old umpire in the face during a little league game. The fight took place in front of young children and their parents.

Investigators said that the 37-year-old man was arguing with an umpire when the other umpire stepped between them. The man then punched the teenage umpire, according to witnesses. Then fans got involved, creating a larger fight.

I know from experience that it’s easy to get caught up in the action, and then when human error, like a blown call, affects the game, a fan can get very emotional. Especially when you’re rooting for your kid.

I’ve been known to verbalize my frustrations from the stands: “Oh, come on,” or “You’ve got to be kidding me.” But the line is crossed when a parent publicly humiliates a kid, verbally harasses an umpire, or loses his or her cool.

We need to remember that the day at the ball fields is not about us, but about the kids. And that we are the adults who should know better and are modeling responsible behavior for the children. I ran across a “Sports Parent Code of Conduct” that listed several agreements that parents must uphold (www.littleleague.org/learn/forms). Among the “I Therefore Agree” statements are:

• I will remember that the children participate to have fun and that the game is for youth, not adults.

• I will learn the rules of the game and the policies of the league.

• I (and my guests) will be a positive role model for my child ...

• I (and my guests) will not engage in any kind of unsportsmanlike conduct with any official, coach, player or parent, such as booing and taunting, refusing to shake hands; or using profane language or gestures.

• I will not encourage any behaviors or practices that would endanger the health or wellbeing of the athletes.

• I will teach my child to play by the rules and resolve conflicts without resorting to hostility or violence.

• I will teach my child that doing one’s best is more important than winning.

• I will praise my child for competing fairly and trying hard, and make my child feel like a winner every time.

• I will never ridicule or yell at my child or other participants for making a mistake or losing a competition.

• I will refrain from coaching my child or other players during games and practices, unless I am one of the official coaches of the team.

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Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road and invites you to join them this Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Visit them on the web at www.mcdonoughroad.org.

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