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Personal Foul: Parents ~ Part 1
Click Here to read the article and view the videos as published on KSL.com on 11/19/2012

By Mike Headrick and Linda Williams

SALT LAKE CITY
— Several violent moments erupted during Utah youth sporting events over the past few months.

The first, happened in Monroe. Referees there called an eighth-grade football game after halftime because of unruly parents and players. Then, a Payson coach was charged with assaulting a young football player on the field. And most recently, a parent was accused of throwing punches at a Jordan High School coach.

The question now: Were these isolated events or indicators of a larger problem along the Wasatch Front?

KSL heard some examples of really bad behavior over the airwaves on Salt Lake radio station 97.1 ZHT. When hosts asked listeners if they'd seen over-the-top parents at youth games, the calls came flooding in.

One woman said she was umpiring a girls' softball game in Idaho when an irate father went after her. She said she struck out the man's daughter and "before I knew, it he was out on the field. He hit me in the head with a bat."

Other listeners texted what they'd seen.

"A mother at my son's soccer game told her 5-year-old to get his freaking head out of his a** and get the ball in the goal ... She was a little bit crazy," one message said.

"My nephew is 8, plays football, and a couple weeks ago they played a team where the coach was telling them to poke the other team in the eyes and kick ‘em when they were down," another read.

One more said, "A parent for another team was offering $100 to anyone that hit my son so hard it took him out of a football game."

It seems everyone has a story to tell: a story that goes well beyond the touchdowns and deeper than the three's; a story that is simply hard to believe.

"He could be sitting in a wheelchair right now, and I don't know what our life would be like," said Richfield mother Karla Joens, during a doctor's appointment for her 13-year-old son at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center for her 13-year-old son.

Joens said her son, Mason Holdaway, fractured his neck during a September football game after coaches and parents of an opposing team singled him out. While the story may be difficult to prove, she said doctors restricted Holdaway from playing the rest of the season, and from playing other sports for months after that.

"For them to win the game, Mason would have to be taken out of the game," Joens said. "To be told they have to hurt my child or any other child is just unacceptable."

It's not just a problem here in Utah. In fact, headlines across the nation reveal both parents and coaches can take little league games beyond the scope of reason, and more than one YouTube video shows what happens when they do.

Take, for example, a video posted in mid-October from West Park, Fla. It shows the coach of a youth football game running onto the field and punching the referee in the face.

University of Utah sports psychologist, Maria Newton said these types of videos show "the norm in our society is to be pretty unruly at sporting events."

Newton is part of a team of researchers studying the effects of adult behavior on youth sports. She said while physical altercations are not the norm, explosive behavior at kids' games has become a lot more common.

"Mom and dad have invested a lot of money," she said. "It's expensive to sign your kid up, so they (parents) feel like they have a sense of ownership over the situation and they want their voice to be heard."

According to a Raw Data Poll conducted for KSL News, 22 percent of those surveyed had witnessed adults get in physical fights at youth sporting events; 84 percent said some adults were too aggressive at youth games; and 65 percent felt aggressive adults should be banned from games altogether.

"It's just ridiculous," Mason Holdaway said. "Some of these parents, how they act, it's just crazy."

"It makes you wonder sometimes who's 13 in the big picture here," Joens said.

To find out just how bad the problem was, KSL took five cameras to dozens of games from Clearfield to Salina. Tonight at 10, see what we caught on video during a two-month investigation: How adults really behave at youth sporting events and what that behavior does to the kids playing the game..


Note:
We thank KSL for doing this report.  Click Here to read the follow-up story.
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