Having been involved in sport in an amateur, collegiate, professional, coaching, and administrative role I have observed the development of our country’s athletic programs from a number of vantage points. What is very clear to me is the fact that our national, regional, state, and local youth sports programs are expanding at a very rapid pace. We have developed programs that address children’s needs from beginning through world class and Olympic levels. While all of these great programs are evolving, the most important program has stood still-people’s perspective.
Recently, a school club level soccer game in Ohio took place. During the heat of the match the referee, rightfully so, issued a yellow or warning card penalty to one of the team’s players. As he turned and walked away to restart the game, the 17-year-old player who had just received the warning ran after him and with a closed fist, punched the 46-year-old referee in the temple region of his head. Within 24 hours, the father of two children, who had volunteered his time for $35 in the name of helping soccer in his community died from a traumatic brain injury
A person in the stands during a youth basketball game yells to his son who had just been fouled during the course of play for his son to “punch him in the head,” referring to the player who had committed the foul.
A youth baseball coach is hit by a rock thrown during a game while standing with his back to the stands.
In the Midwest, a high school track team runner is warned repeatedly by his coach that his unexcused absences from practices were heading him toward consequence. Continuing to skip practices while still expecting to participate in the team’s competitions resulted in his dismissal from the squad. His parent is now suing the track coach for $40 milon, claiming that his son’s rights are being violated (in spite of the coach’s clearly spelled-out expectations and rules).
Rights? The only place I know of that offers people in our country inalienable rights is the Constitution. When did we forget the most basic premise in sport (and life), which is to be able to participate in an organized sport is a privilege, not a right.
If a participant has questions or comments, communicate with the powers that are controlling the situation; get clarification and then respect the guidelines. It’s not negotiable, that’s why the PGA follows a 746-page rulebook. The most important thing that a parent and their child athlete need to keep front of mind is: The coach of the team and the referee are probably volunteers, they give of their time to your child, all the while sacrificing their own family time, work wages, and enjoying their own free time. They are not responsible for the country’s economic state or the cost of gas; they are the good guys.
Here’s how you can help:
1. Select a sport with your child.
2. Take time to read the rules and expectations.
3. Determine whether both you and your child can work within this outline.
4. Make the commitment to support your child’s interest and team schedule.
5. Thank your coaches and referees.
Have fun and enjoy the privilege of watching your child learn about life through all that comes in sports.
Topper Van Backer