Volume 75, Number 27 | November 23 - 29, 2005


Sports parents must turn down volume, tone down behavior

Inappropriate parent behavior at youth sports events has become a problem of national proportions, one that is marring the games and detracting from young athletes’ ability to learn the right way to play and enjoy sports. That some shouting, competitive, hyper parents are taking the fun out of the game is bad enough. But in some cases certain parents are crossing the line, threatening referees, fighting one other — and in one recent instance at Pier 40 at W. Houston St., participating in a full-fledged rumble between two opposing youth soccer teams.

In this latest incident, a father allegedly struck or flung a 14-year-old to the ground. The father was arrested by police, and led away from Pier 40 in handcuffs.

This troubling incident happened during a game between the Downtown United Soccer Club — which draws its players from Greenwich Village and other areas — and the Brooklyn Italians. Creating the conditions for this sort of problem to erupt, the game was played without an official referee — clearly, a mistake.

Other recent incidents involving the Downtown Soccer League — which draws its players from neighborhoods south of Canal St. — saw a player slug an opponent in the face during the postgame handshake line and two parents threaten to fight each other on the field before a referee defused the confrontation.

There’s no doubt firm referees are needed to keep the games — and more importantly the parents — in line.

Since the 1990s, Downtown parents have been attending the games in greater numbers. Now, the players are being groomed starting at the age of 10 in hopes that they’ll be the next David Beckham and get a college athletic scholarship.

One must acknowledge that DUSC, D.S.L. and the Little League and all the other Downtown youth sports leagues are doing a terrific job by giving youngsters a chance to play quality organized sports. The vast majority of games are played with great sportsmanship. Volunteer parent coaches log hours and hours of time to help the kids learn the games and reach their potential.

That said, one has to remember that parents must also be role models.

One good idea for our leagues to consider is to emulate the policies of New Jersey youth sports leagues, which have a zero tolerance policy: On the second warning to a parent, the game is called. Jersey leagues also regularly have “Silent Saturday” and “Silent Sunday” games at which parents can watch — but only quietly. In addition, in Jersey, parents are encouraged to play at least one soccer game themselves so they can understand just how hard it is. While they play, their kids watch from the sidelines — and can yell at them as much as they like.

Bottom line: these are only games and they’re supposed to be fun.

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