Foul: Parents ~ Part 2
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published on KSL.com on 11/19/2012
Mike Headrick and Linda Williams
LAKE CITY — Every year, roughly 40 million kids sign up
sports across the country. While that may seem like a lot, several
studies show most of those kids want to quit sports altogether by the
age of 13.
It's not fun anymore.
why isn't it fun? KSL Investigates spent the past two months looking
into that question. In short, the reason so many kids are dropping out
of sports is because of grown-ups. The fact is, many feel that adults
are taking the fun out of it.
A verbal and
five different cameras and four different photographers, KSL recorded
dozens of youth sporting events up and down the Wasatch Front, from
Davis to Sevier counties.
What we found was the boundaries for
the way both parents and coaches should behave at these games is a
little blurry. Their words can be sharp, their tone is sometimes
fierce, and often the body language is louder than their voices.
have eyes! You saw that! That's bullcrap!" a mother screamed to the
referee from the sidelines of a high school girls' soccer game between
Alta and Brighton. A couple of other girls' soccer games revealed
"Shut that coach up!" yelled one man.
Another mom flailed her arms in the air screaming, "Oh, you suck!" to
they were just a few in the grand scheme of things. Others were heard
cursing and berating coaches, parents and even the young athletes. We
heard the father of a 10-year-old football player, tossing the ball to
his son on the sidelines, swearing at his son after missing a couple of
But verbal assaults are only part of the problem. At
times, it can become physical between parents, coaches and referees,
but as we just saw in Payson the kids are not immune.
year old Nathan K. Harris was recently charged with assaulting a
13-year-old football player as the boy ran down the sideline.
the game's an aggressive game, and that brings about the aggressiveness
in parents," said Mike Matich, the commissioner of the Ute Conference
Matich oversees 9,000 players, 2,500 coaches and 455 teams. He says
he's seen it all.
"We've had fights, some fights break out. We've had many ejections and
continually have ejections," Matich said.
So to keep people in check, the conference pays out roughly $80,000 a
year for police presence at every field.
other leagues we spoke with, the Ute Conference keeps track of every
person tossed from a game. This year it logged 67 ejections; 26 of
those were adults, most of them coaches, removed for things like
unsportsmanlike conduct, bad language, making threats, and starting a
point of view
it often seems the referees are typically the ones who generate the
problems — not on purpose, of course. But when a kid's big touchdown is
called back because of a questionable penalty, the mood can quickly
Kevin Barrs has refereed youth sports for more than a
decade and recalls the time an angry parent raced onto the field and
got up in his face.
"He's all, you want to fight? And I'm thinking, ‘Oh man, here we go,'"
is African American and says parents have screamed out racial slurs in
the middle of a game. In fact, at one game he says parents and coaches
got so out of control, police were grabbing people off the field.
type of behavior isn't just bad for the game, Barrs says it's an
embarrassment to the kids. He talked about a young football player
reacting to his father's antics.
"The guy was like, ‘Dad calm down!' And he had tears in his eyes, and
he's like ‘Get out of here Dad!'" Barrs said.
He went on to say the boy apologized for his father's actions.
it's not just football. In a girls' soccer match a parent was heard
screaming at the referee from the sideline, "No! Are you kidding me!
You suck! You're terrible!"
The referee kicked him out of the park, with two teams of kids looking
was a similar story at a girls' basketball game in West Jordan. The
coach and referee went toe-to-toe, cursing at each other. The game was
terminated, again with a full court of girls looking on.
The effect on
is different. When you're playing sports some rules don't apply," said
Maria Newton, a sports psychologist at the University of Utah.
studies how adults impact a child's long-term perception of sports.
What she found is fans often behave at kids' games the way they act at
professional sporting events, yelling at refs, coaches and players. And
all too often she says they believe their kid will be the next big star.
child is the golden child. If they're (child is) successful, then
they've been a good parent. So they're a measuring stick: their kid's
performance on the field is a measuring stick of their parenting
ability. That puts a lot of pressure on the parent," Newton said.
And a lot of pressure on the kid.
to a group of studies, anywhere from 60 to 85 percent of kids drop out
of youth sports by the age of 13. The top three reasons are adults,
coaches and parents.
So, what's the fix? And is it realistic to
think there is one?
one league in Maryland, out-of-control soccer parents were booted from
the sidelines and forced to watch the game 100 yards away. In Arkansas,
a football program created a silent night: no cheering, no shouting;
parents and coaches could only clap.
Here in Utah, a number of
leagues make parents read and sign codes of conduct. Taking it a step
further, the city of Lehi requires parents to watch a video on
sportsmanship and take a test. If they don't pass the test, their kid
does not play.
"It's just a game. It's not life or death," said
Dan Harrison, the recreation director for Lehi City. He says in the
past year alone, the policy has been helping.
"We've had less reports of fighting, verbally, and sometimes
physically," said Harrison.
He said he is happy, so far, with the results and hopeful, for the sake
of the kids, the improved sideline behavior will last.
youth sports organization called I-9 recently did a study on the
subject of kids dropping out of sports. It found several revealing
31 perct of kids wish adults were not watching their
games because they yell too much, are distracting, and put too much
pressure on the kids.
42 percent of kids say they would rather play video games of sports,
instead of physically playing the same sport.
sure to watch "Sunday Edition" on KSL this week at 9 a.m. We will
further discuss the topic of parental behavior at youth sporting events
and have a sports psychologist break down the actions of Mike Headrick,
as a youth basketball coach, to see what he's doing right and wrong.
We thank KSL for doing this report. Click
Here to read Part 1.