The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

June 20, 2013

Youth leagues try to rein in 'bad news parents'

(Continued)

It gets so bad sometimes that some players wish their parents would just stay home, she says.

Laura Marinelli, who coaches Small's younger sister on a traveling softball team for 12- to 14-year-old girls in Essex County, N.J., also has noticed more over-the-top parent behavior in recent years.

Marinelli recalls one dad who was angry about a play on the field and tried to tackle her assistant coach during a game. The coach was able to duck the parent and ended up throwing him to the ground.

At a national tournament last year, she says a father of a player was so unhappy with a decision she'd made that he ran at her in the dugout, screaming and pointing in her face, causing some of her players to cry. Ultimately, she asked his daughter to leave the team because she felt the dad had repeatedly violated the team's code of conduct.

"The girl is a phenomenal softball player. She's a sweetheart — and a great kid," Marinelli says. "But I can't have a parent like that on the sidelines."

Kicking kids off teams is one of the more serious punishments that leagues and coaches use to try to keep parents under control. Some leagues and tournament officials also are giving umpires more power to warn offending parents and coaches and then ask them to leave the premises if they ignore the warning.

It can be an effective deterrent, though in many other instances, umpires or referees at youth games are often teenagers who may not have the experience or confidence to stand up to parents.

And often, there's no security at games. So parents are left to police themselves.

For that reason, some teams assign parents to be "culture keepers," asking those people to help keep the yelling and negativity from fellow parents to a minimum. Sometimes, they even hand out lollipops to help keep themselves quiet.

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