PRB Articles


Parental Timeouts

When it comes to youth sports, we’ve somehow reached the point where accounts of parental misbehavior are no longer surprising.

In fact, these stories of outbursts, fisticuffs and arrests have become so common around the country, and occur so frequently, that they no longer grab our full attention.

Take this story for example:

Y gives playoff boot to adults; Parents get game misconducts

Copyright Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp. Reprinted with permission.

Parents of players in the Tri-Community YMCA youth basketball league for grades 5 and up will not be allowed in the gymnasium for the final games tomorrow. The reason is the flagrant fouls of a few unruly parents.

An e-mail sent out to the parents cites "unsportsmanlike behavior from some parents" during the last couple of weeks.

The e-mail says a few people have become "belligerent" in the stands, even after being spoken to, and have been "setting a bad example for children."

"All must know that this is inappropriate behavior that will not be tolerated."

YMCA Director Edward Keefe and YMCA Recreation Director Susan Casine agree it was a very tough decision to make.

"There was a lot of discussion. We didn't make the decision lightly," Mr. Keefe said. "This is the last game. This is the last week. We want the kids to have fun, have a positive experience and close out the season on a positive high.

"We don't want to affect the parents who go to every game and behave themselves and cheer on their kids," Ms. Casine said. "But we need to make sure that unsportsmanlike behavior from parents doesn't get out of hand."

Ms. Casine said a few unruly parents have been yelling at the referees and at one another during the games. The children know the disruptions were happening and the referees were dealing with it the best they could, she said. However, she said, the culprits are not yelling profanities or threats and police have not been called in.

"The last two or three weeks it just seemed that it was getting worse and worse and worse," Ms. Casine said. "Referees would have to stop the game and go over and say to the parents, `You have to behave yourself, please stop yelling,' and then it just continues."

Eighty youths, ages 11 to 14, play in two basketball divisions on Saturday. Ms. Casine said that 75 percent to 80 percent of the players' parents show up to the games, and most are well behaved.

"Some games it's just one parent. There were probably eight to 10 parents at the worst game," Ms. Casine said. "They're involved in the game. They're excited for their kids. It just gets a little out of control."

Parents pay $52 ($35 if they are a member) for each child to play hoops.

Only coaches, officials and players will be allowed to the final games tomorrow at the Wells Middle School in Southbridge. If someone else tries to get in, Ms. Casine will be at the door to politely explain to them why they are not allowed to pass and why the YMCA made the decision to keep parents out.

"I've spoken to many parents who are, initially, not happy about it, understandably," Ms. Casine said. "But, once I talked to them and explained to them why we're doing it and that we're doing it to benefit their children, then, for the most part, they understand and they're on board."

"Thousands of kids have gone through this basketball program and we think thousands of kids have had great experiences," Mr. Keefe added. "We want the kids to have a good closing experience."

While the two directors acknowledge it's practically a rite of passage for children to play in league sports and have their parents root them on in the bleachers or the sidelines, they don't think they are taking anything away from the parent-child experience but enhancing it by keeping it positive.

"As soon as the game is over the parents will be attending the pizza party," Mr. Keefe said. "The kids will get their end-of-the-season awards and they all get them. So it will be a positive closeout for the kids."

Taking A Stance

So the question that comes to mind after reading this article is whether this decision was made with the best interests of the kids in mind?

If your program encountered similar behavior issues with parents would you approve of the approach taken by this YMCA or would you take a different route?

Let me know. I’d love to hear what you think.

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla., which has been advocating positive and safe sports for children since 1981. He is also the author of Why Johnny Hates Sports, which is available on Amazon.com. He can be reached via e-mail at fengh@nays.org

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