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Ending Poor Sportsmanship in Youth Sports

By Jay Foster, Attorney and David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network

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Unfortunately, arguments and hot tempers have become commonplace at child sporting events. A survey by SportingKid magazine found that 76% of respondents had witnessed a verbal argument at a game, and a whopping 29% had witnessed a physical altercation – all between adults.

Experts charge that an atmosphere of tolerance has become pervasive, and that it is ruining the spirit of the game for children. Stories of ridiculous behavior include a former Mississippi congressman exchanging blows with a referee after the referee made a comment that caused the congressman’s child to cry. Other stories are much more serious, including the beating death of a parent at a youth hockey game in Massachusetts. The beating took place in front of two teams of ten year old hockey players. The National Association of Sports Officials reorts that it receives over 100 reports each year of physical contact by coaches, players and fans against referees. Referees have been kicked, punched, choked, head-butted and even knocked unconscious.

Ironically, the main lessons kids are supposed to get from team sports are teamwork, how to win or lose gracefully, and how to play by the rules. When parents lose control they are setting a very bad example for kids. Overzealous parents are teaching kids that it is okay to taunt the other team, to cheat, to keep playing even when injured, and to yell at officials when they disagree with a call. Experts and reasonable parents are calling for training, discipline and tough punishments for unsportsmanlike behavior. A special training program in Mississippi has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of players and coaches ejected from games for bad behavior. A similar program in Alabama has reduced ejections by 62%. Find out more about what schools and parents are doing to curb sports violence at Violence mars youth sports.