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The Dark Cloud Over Youth Sports

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Who of us hasn’t witnessed the unpleasant scene at a youth athletic event when a parent has gone over the top in his remarks to an official or a coach or a player, often his or her own child. It has become an all too frequent occurrence in the arena of little league sports.

The benefits of being involved in youth sports is significant. Not only do young people learn skills and hone natural talents but they can also meet new friends and enjoy the benefits of being involved with individuals who have similar interests to their own. Unfortunately, for some, those benefits are being challenged by the damaging effects of boorish behavior on the part of parents who are often trying to relive or reinvent their own past.

It’s sad when a parent who should be their child’s biggest fan and number one cheerleader instead takes on the role of antagonist. To see a parent humiliate their own child in front of their peers is heartbreaking. The slump of their young shoulders and the light that instantly leaves their bright faces is made even more tragic with the knowledge that this type of abuse often causes permanent damage to a young psyche.

Sports should provide a positive experience, not a negative one. It should add to the enjoyment and fulfillment of ones life, not diminish it.

It was an exciting and educational time for my children when they involved in youth sports. They learned to take direction from their coaches who knew far more than they did about the nuts and bolts of playing the game. They developed relationships that enriched their lives and skills that improved their self esteem. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience for the most part. There were a few occasions when a coach stepped over the line a bit when trying to make a point but thankfully those times were infrequent and the memories of those days are very pleasant. The times that a parent flipped out and let loose with a tirade against one of the coaches of his own children are sealed in our memories as well and have left a bitter taste.

If only these errant parents could cheer on their kids with an unconditional acceptance of their efforts and mistakes. If they could just allow their kids to be kids and experience the highs and lows that come naturally as part of any growing experience without adding their unnecessary and unappreciated input. If only they could sit in the stands and enjoy the experience and allow others around them to do the same. Wouldn’t it be nice.

Nancy Smith is one of the owners of Robbinssports.com, an online retailer specializing in volleyball nets and basketball uniforms.