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Photo Credit: Spring Valley Park

Are adults responsible for ruining youth sports? (Op-Ed)

Overstepping boundaries from the bleachers is not appropriate for a youth sporting event, and only harms a child’s self-confidence. Children play sports to build friendships with teammates, exercise, and, most importantly, have fun. When over-involved parents scream at a child to play better, berate them for a loss, or start fights with other parents or coaches, children may lose interest in the sport altogether. These outbursts are distracting to other players, ruin coach-athlete relationships, and cause undue stress on youth athletes.

According to TrueSport, youth athletes with overinvolved parents are more likely to develop childhood anxiety, low self-efficacy, and the belief that they have no control over personal success or failure. This can lead to self-doubt, quitting the sport entirely, or an inflated sense of entitlement.

Officials also feel unsafe. A 2023 study found that 69% of the nearly 36,000 officials surveyed reported that sportsmanship is getting worse. More than 50% of these officials reported feeling unsafe while working. The most popular aggressors identified were the parents of youth athletes.

“I think we’ve lost some decorum in society in general and I think that’s carried over into the interscholastic arena. And I think people feel because they paid for admission into a game or because their son or daughter is playing in the game, that they have the ability to say what they want and there should be no consequences to it,” Todd Nelson, assistant director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), told USA Today.

On February 24th, former NFL quarterback Cam Newton physically fought with other youth sports coaches which led to security guards forcibly removing them from the We Ball Sports invitation-only camp and tournament. Children should not be exposed to such violence; these events are supposed to be a safe space for children to play their favorite sports.

Last October, a Saint Louis youth football coach was shot four times by a parent. Shaquille Latimore survived the shooting that followed an argument in which the parent was upset by his son’s lack of playing time. No one else was injured, including the children who witnessed the shooting.

Youth sporting events are not the place for adults to get angry, start verbal and physical altercations, or draw a firearm. Children deserve to engage in positive sports games without the threat of violence, belittling verbiage, or insults. It doesn’t matter who wins or loses the game; what matters is youth athletes having fun.

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