The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

June 20, 2013

Youth leagues try to rein in 'bad news parents'

(Continued)

"But sometimes the culture keeper isn't always the best person — because that person is yelling just as much as the other parents," Jill Kirby says, laughing. She's a mom in Long Grove, Ill., whose five children participate in sports, from soccer to swimming and T-ball, sometimes in neighboring Buffalo Grove.

She says the signs asking adults to behave are a nice idea — perhaps even a way to get people talking about the issue. But ultimately, she doesn't think the tactic will work.

"I think the worst offenders don't think they are the worst offenders," Kirby says, conceding that maybe even she was one of those parents, "once upon a time."

"And then I got a little perspective," she says.

Greg Dale, a sports psychologist at Duke University, agrees that it's difficult for parents to see themselves as "that parent," at least without a little help.

He recalls a mom in California telling him about a dad she called "leather lungs" because he yelled so often at the officials, coaches and kids.

Hesitant to approach him, the woman secretly filmed him at several games and anonymously sent him the video. "And the guy changed the way he was acting from then on," Dale says.

More often, though, he says he sees parents who "say the right things" about sportsmanship — maybe even reciting a pledge before a game, as is the case at his own children's Little League games.

"Those things help. But ultimately, I think they're Band-Aids," says Dale, author of the book "The Fulfilling Ride: A Parent's Guide to Helping Athletes Have a Successful Sport Experience."

More important, he says is whether parents are actually BEING good sports, even at professional sporting events.

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