The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

June 20, 2013

Youth leagues try to rein in 'bad news parents'

(Continued)

Other leagues occasionally have "silent" games, where parents and sometimes even coaches can only offer encouragement or cheer and clap, but can't direct the young players or say or shout anything too negative.

Buffalo Grove officials say some have questioned whether this is just another attempt to coddle children. Some wonder: Shouldn't a young player learn to take criticism? And what's wrong with a little competition, anyway?

But this, say coaches, leagues and even some parents and kids, is about parent behavior that increasingly goes way over the line and interferes with a kid's ability to enjoy something that's supposed to be fun.

"We've all seen that person on the sidelines and we're thinking, 'Are they really going there? Really?'" says Brian Sanders, president of i9 Sports Corp., a national franchiser of youth leagues and camps based in Florida that uses sportsmanship as one of its cornerstones.

In some cases, violent behavior has led to criminal charges — in Newark, N.J., for instance, where parents allegedly beat up a Little League baseball umpire because he wouldn't call a game because of darkness.

"The level of competition in youth sports has gotten exponentially greater, forcing this level of hyper-competition," Sanders says.

"I think that is driving a certain level of behavior on the sidelines that is amplified."

Haley Small, a 19-year-old college student who played soccer and then traveling softball through high school, puts it this way: "The more competitively I played, the more interesting the parents got."

"We'd joke about it, but it's serious. Some of my friends were walking on eggshells," says Small, now a student at Ithaca College in New York. "We hear a lot more than people think."

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