It was unsettling to read the Jan. 9 article in the Idaho Statesman about a Mountain View High School parent who was banned from high school activities for one year for throwing a coat at a referee. Unfortunately, for those involved in youth sports today, events like this are all too common. Southwest Idaho District Three Board of Control President Terry Beck’s comment summed it up well: “Spectators and people are getting crazy. It’s a nationwide thing.”
While most instances involving parents, coaches and referees do not escalate to physical violence, the verbal attacks are significantly more common. Coat-throwing, referee-shoving, parent-fighting stories make for more dramatic headlines, but it’s perhaps the less public, but more common events that are the most destructive to our youth and their sports experience.
Most would not argue that it is important to teach our children respect for authority, composure, discipline and perseverance during difficult times. Youth sports, in its purest form, offers a tremendous venue to introduce and reinforce these traits in our children. Unfortunately, spectators (and some coaches) attending these events model a very different and unproductive way to deal with adversity. We don’t condone yelling, head-shaking, pointing, stomping, eye-rolling from our children, yet this is what is too often modeled for them while they are playing sports.
A few years ago, the Idaho Youth Sports Commission, an Idaho non-profit, was established to address this unmet need in our local youth sports culture. We put together an advisory board of those athletes who have played at the highest level — Olympic gold medalists, NFL football players, an MLB batting champion, collegiate coaches and players, sports medicine doctors and educators — to begin a grass-roots effort to improve the youth sports experience.
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With help from the Positive Coaching Alliance (the mastery of growth mindset), the Albertsons Foundation and many gracious donors, we now host minimal-cost workshops and provide resources for youth leagues around the state to educate parents and coaches.
In doing this, we believe we can fulfill our mission to build a community of coaches and administrators who teach not only the value of winning and losing, but also greater life lessons, fitness and fun.
For more information or resources, please visit IdahoYouthSports.com.
Tim Brady is director of Idaho Youth Sports Commission and former owner of Idaho Sporting Goods. He wrote this article with his co-founders: Dr. George Wade, founder of Idaho Sports Medicine Institute and former Boise State team doctor, and Jim Everett, former College of Idaho swimming coach and the former executive director of the Treasure Valley YMCA.