Violence in Youth Sports

While the stories above are real and ugly, taken together they paint a picture that makes organized youth sports look like a battlefield, the last place you would want your kids in their leisure time. The truth is that, overall, youth sports is a very healthy experience for most kids, and it is getting healthier. Sure, we have the overbearing, emotionally immature parents out there who stand out loudly and clearly as they drive their kids unmercifully to be the next superstar–but it’s important to remember that violence is something that will always be around and youth sports is not immune, especially when we have scoreboards, standings and rankings, championships, all-star teams for children as young as five years old and other things that drive the passionate part in most of us.

So, while we’ll never be able to totally eradicate the violent incidents that occur in youth sports, there are several ways to help prevent them. Just by mandating a few simple rules, outlandish behavior by adults in youth sports can be reduced.

Here are some tips:

· Have a game-day policy in which spectators must sit in the stands–no standing on the sidelines for sports like football, soccer and basketball, where words will be more likely to be exchanged in the heat of the action. In baseball, there is no standing near the dugout.

· Have a policy whereby umpires can report abuse from fans immediately during the game (could be a recreation director on-site at games, supervisor of officials, etc.) to eliminate chances of a problem escalating.

· Use designated recreation staff members to monitor the behavior of spectators and issue warnings to those who behave inappropriately.

· Hire off-duty policeofficers to oversee games. You can build the cost into the registration fee for the players.

The good news is that thanks to the dedication of more and more communities, we are seeing steps like these being taken to educate and train coaches and parents on how to prevent violence, and how to deal with it when it occurs. It’s just a shame that it has taken us so long to stand up to that troublesome 5 percent and say, “No more.”

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla., which is in its 25th year of advocating for positive and safe youth sports and offering training and education programs for coaches, parents, administrators and officials. To find out more about these programs, visit www nays.org or e-mail pr@nays.org

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