Out of control sports parents: How widespread is the problem?
Posted By Tom Plahutnik, Web Editor/Producer - email
SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -
Every parent with a child active in sports has seen them at one time or another – parents that take their kids' games way too seriously.
Parents let loose by yelling at a referee, making a scene or maybe even storming onto the field.
TV5 wanted to know how often parents lose control. It's hard to say locally, but according to a Reuters News poll from 2010, sixty percent of Americans have witnessed parents being verbally or physically abusive toward a coach or official.
Andrew Klaczkiewicz is a youth soccer coach and president of the Saginaw Township Soccer Association. He says he has seen parents on opposing teams acting unruly, but he's never seen a parent's overzealousness turn criminal.
"I've had some instances where parents come onto the field because referees are a little fired up, a ref may have made the same call over and over and they feel their kid is getting treated poorly, and I've seen parents come on the field," said Klaczkiewcz. "We've never had to call the police to resolve any type of parent dispute with another parent or referee or another coach."
He credits the good behavior to having strict rules for both parents and players within his league.
"We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to parents yelling at officials or other parents when a game is going on, we do enforce that pretty strictly," explains Klaczkiewcz.
Drew Emrich, the Midland Soccer Club senior director and fellow coach, says his league has a similar policy to cut down on out-of-control parents.
"We have a 24-hour cool off period, so if there is ever a game where there's referee bad calls or instances where there are player interactions, we have a 24-hour period where we won't respond to any type of complaint or anything like that until there is a 24-hour period, so it gives parents a little more time to get perspective on the situation," said Emrich.
TV5 attended several youth sporting events around Mid-Michigan to see if we could witness any bad behavior from parents. All of them were shouting positive praises for their kids, but we did notice signs posted at some games reminding parents to stay in control.
The coaches we spoke with say they try to have a good relationship with the parents, that way if they do notice a parent getting too overzealous or if they're upset about a call, they can talk to the parent themselves and try to diffuse the situation.
TV5 also discovered that coaches are taking on the brunt of the responsibility to calm down unruly parents. But what can you do as a fellow spectator if you notice a parent's passion turning disrespectful?
Family and relationship expert Doctor Thomas Haller says you can confront that person, but don't do it in a brash way.
"You move in first by noticing and reflecting and talking about their passion, their excitement, their energy, their commitment to being there; don't come in with the negative," explains Haller.
The good doctor recommended the following "ABCs" to help deal with unruly parental behavior.
Anger management – hold on to your temper and model restraint for your young athlete.
Bigger picture – remember that winning is only one of the goals of competition.
Coach and cheer – Many programs are looking for anyone willing to coach, and don't forget to cheer for other children besides your own.
Be honest with yourself if you're a parent on the verge of losing it, and take a deep breath. After all, it's just a game.
Copyright WNEM 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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