Youth sports organizers call time out! An estimated 70% of all youth sports programs are operated by parent-interest groups; and each parent’s motives and morals influence how the program is run – Cover Story
Have youth sports programs veered away from what’s best for kids? In a recent study published in Sports Illustrated For Kids, 74 percent of the more than 3,000 youngsters who responded said they had seen out-of-control adults at their games. In Indianapolis, 21 percent of the parents polled by Survey USA said they had witnessed a physical altercation between parents at a youth sporting event. A similar study conducted by Survey USA in South Florida found that 56 percent of those polled said they had witnessed aggressive parents at youth sporting events.
No one knows the exact number of incidents that have taken place. But it seems as if we are hearing about violent outbreaks with increasing regularity. It is no longer unheard of for youth athletic events to unravel amid fist-fights and insults.
“I have coached, played and umpired, and now I have a 6-year old in soccer and T-ball. I’m just amazed at what I see,” said Dr. Dan Wann, an associate professor of psychology at Murray State University and author of Sport Fans: The Psychology & Social Impact of Spectators. “We recently had a coach and umpire almost come to blows over a call, and none of the kids understood why. They didn’t understand the rule the coach was nitpicking about, they just wanted to play. We have huge problems in our society that we can’t do anything about, but this is something we can make better.”
Bringing People Together
Last summer in Chicago, the National Alliance For Youth Sports hosted the National Summit on Raising Community Standards in Children’s Sports to address key issues affecting organized sports. More than 50 representatives from parks and recreation agencies nationwide came together to examine problems and, more importantly, devise a meaningful approach to correct them.
The strategy the Summit delegates developed was recently unveiled through the Recommendations for Communities, which have been endorsed by the National Recreation and Park Association.
The Recommendations call for communities to evaluate what is occurring at their publicly-owned facilities. Communities can change the culture of youth sports and establish a fun and stress-free playing environment for youngsters through reform, education and accountability.
“I would like to see the Recommendations for Communities help the small, volunteer-run organizations,” said Miste Adams, the recreation supervisor for the National Trail Parks and Recreation District in Springfield, Ohio, which serves about 3,000 youngsters. “I want them to have guidelines and follow those guidelines for all their programs.
“Too often small groups run their youth sports however it is convenient for the adults, and not what is best for the kids. Larger organizations like ours have people who work fulltime on youth programs. Volunteer organizations are just that–volunteers. The Recommendations will give them guidance, and hopefully make the programs better and stronger for the children.”
For a free copy of the recommendations call 800-729-2057. In brief, the Recommendations stress the importance of implementing the following three steps:
* Adopting a community philosophy that makes youth sports safe and positive for children;
* Appointing a professional youth sports administrator to ensure adherence to the philosophy;
* Holding everyone associated with the program accountable for their behavior.
“A youth sports program is not something we can trust to run well without our vigilant involvement,” said Bob Bierscheid, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Roseville (Minn.) and Chairman of the Board of the National Alliance For Youth Sports. “It requires aggressive action at all levels.
“The Recommendations for Communities clearly establishes the field of parks and recreation as the solution to providing all children in sports with a safe and positive experience on publicly-owned facilities,” said Fred Engh, founder and president of the National Alliance For Youth Sports. “These Recommendations were created by professional recreators for professional recreators. Now is the time to put them into action. Children are depending on us.”
The Recommendations for Communities comprise an integral part of the Alliance’s Time Out! for Better Sports for Kids initiative, which is headed by Olympic champion Marion Jones. Since the Time Out! for Better Sports for Kids initiative got under way last year, hundreds of concerned citizens have contacted the Alliance asking what they can do to help fend off negative behaviors infringing on their child’s enjoyment. Based on concerns being voiced throughout the country, Time Out! for Better Sports for Kids Task Forces are being formed. These are comprised of individuals who are committed to taking proactive steps in their respective communities to ensure the safety and well-being of all youth participants.
The Alliance is recruiting Task Force members from its membership base of some 150,000 coaches, administrators and parents who have already undergone training and education and have operated under an established code of behavior. To join the task force contact the Alliance.
The Task Forces will play a significant role in encouraging their respective community leaders to adopt the Time Out! for Better Sports for Kids initiative. Cities and counties who have invested in facilities for youth sports programming should consider becoming involved in this initiative. A free four-minute video is available to anyone who is interested in learning more about this initiative. (Call 1-800-729-2057 for a free copy.)
“Our department (Jefferson City Parks and Recreation) has adopted the Time Out! for Better Sports for Kids community proposal,” said Angie Toebben, the recreation supervisor for Jefferson City (Mo.) Parks and Recreation. “I feel that this program is great, and all cities should adopt it.”
The National Trail Park District in Springfield, Ohio, the Orange County Parks and Recreation Department in Va., the Jefferson City (Mo.) Parks and Recreation and the Town of Lantana (Fla.) are some of the recreation agencies that have already established Time Out! for Better Sports for Kids Community Partnerships.
“We want to provide a safe place for kids to be kids, and we work hard to provide this,” Adams said. “I believe it is up to the adults to change these behaviors. It really comes down to adult peer pressure. If the adults do not tolerate other adults acting up, then sooner or later it will stop.”
For more information on getting involved, contact the National Alliance For Youth Sports at 800-729-2057 or visit www.nays.org.
Greg Bach is the communications director for the National Alliance For Youth Sports. As an avid athlete and volunteer coach, he knows the importance of children participating in a fun and stress-free youth sports environment. His story on page 60 explains the Recommendations for Communities that were developed by sports leaders nationwide and are endorsed by both the Alliance and NRPA.
COPYRIGHT 2002 National Recreation and Park Association
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group