|Banish Bad Actors in Youth Sports|
BY BRUCE APAR
On the thankfully infrequent occasion that youth sports get a bad rap, it almost never has anything to do with youth, or sports. It has to do with adults behaving badly, sometimes almost criminally so, because of their faded past glories and failures. We all have them.
What we all don’t do is curse thoughtlessly and uncontrollably in front of kids.
What we all don’t do is drag the glories and failures with us through the years and then inject them arbitrarily decades later into a little league game because we believe the umpire made a bad call with our child at bat.
For goodness sake, what kind of lesson is it to teach a child that if you don't get X amount of playing time, or if you look at a called third strike, it's the fault of someone in authority? You are not accountable for your own actions, or inaction, or not training harder and listening more seriously to your coach to learn the plays and master the skills.
Parents who instill in their children a sense of entitlement are giving in to their own weakest impulses, and the sins of the father and the mother will be visited on the sons and the daughters.
What we all don’t do is take a lacrosse stick and smash it in the face of an opposing coach, igniting an on-field brawl in front of kids left to wonder, “And I’m supposed to listen to them?!”
All the above incidents are all too real and all too recent. Doesn’t matter where they happened. They can happen anywhere, and, sadly, they do.
Sports are supposed to be emotional -- win, lose or draw. It’s part of the passion that takes athletes to levels of greatness, that breaks records, that wins games, that avenges losses, that stokes the competitive juices.
Yet, youth sports become an oxymoron when they are over-run or ruined by adults unable to control or harness their emotions in positive directions. Such persons dwell among us all and, to some extent, in us all – think road rage, domestic squabbles between husband and wife – but when unleashed by someone supervising youth sports, the fallibility that afflicts us all becomes a flashing-red danger sign that can damage a young person’s attitude or confidence, and perhaps even undermine respect for their own parents.
A toxic adult infecting youth sports needs to be severely reprimanded and sometimes suspended for a length of time from participating in the youth sports organization. The punishment unfortunately doesn’t guarantee the offender is going to “get it” and change his or her ways the next time an incident rears its ugly head. It means they won’t continue to cause trouble within that organization, and to undermine the principles of fair play and sportsmanship that turn sports into a life-affirming experience instead of a playground for our baser instincts. No youth sports administrator or organization can control the behavior of a member; all it can do it control whether that member can stay involved in the organization’s activities and attends its events.
The playing field is its own stage, yet on the performing arts stage, it takes just as much guts, practice, skill and discipline to sing, dance, act, entertain as it does to throw, catch, hit a ball. There’s a great deal of emoting on stage, but have you ever seen a stage crew member or performer hit someone else out of frustration?
Student athletes, some of whom do perform on stage as well, and youth sports supervisors could learn a lot from their counterparts in the performing arts about disciplined behavior and how to make emotions work for you in the best way possible instead of against someone else in the worst way possible.
Maybe if more dollars in school and municipal budgets were allocated to the performing arts and less dollars to sports, the hooligans who put a blot on the latter would start to get the message and learn to be better role players rather than spoiled divas whose only two letters they recognize in team is m-e.