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Larry Peterson - Straight Shots

PETERSON: Brawling parents lose touch with purpose of youth sports

Parents from rival teams brawl during a 12-and-under softball tournament in Kingsport, Tennessee on Sunday.
Parents from rival teams brawl during a 12-and-under softball tournament in Kingsport, Tennessee on Sunday.

On Father’s Day in Kingsport, Tennessee, a 12-year-old girls softball tournament turned into a brawl of adults supporting two teams from North Carolina. If you saw the news accounts or widely viewed Facebook video, it was adult role-modeling at its worst.

For those who haven’t seen it, here’s the setting. USA Softball was hosting a 12-and-under tournament at Brickyard Park in Kingsport. The East Wilkes Cardinal Heat had just won a game in the tournament, and was paired to meet the winner of the Blue Ridge Explosion and another team.

According to city and tournament officials quoted in media accounts, some of the East Wilkes fans got to thinking the umpires were being a little too friendly to Blue Ridge. That’s when the some of the Explosion fans initiated a verbal confrontation with the Cardinals parents who had been complaining loudly about calls.

That led to one parent being pushed down a slope and a Blue Ridge parent striking back, setting off a brawl that was videotaped by bystander Bryan Sayers with his cellphone. It had more than 340,000 Facebook views in 48 hours.

The tournament director disqualified both teams from the tournament and banned them from future tournaments.

That’s the really sad part of this. Kids trying to get better and take their game to the next level are being punished by these overzealous, childish parents. The video shows one player turning to hug someone after she failed to pull an adult from her community out of the fray. You can see her shouting “Stop!” before giving up and breaking into tears.

What message are those kids getting? Maybe a pretty clear one on how they will not behave someday if in that parental role. The missed opportunities they now may encounter because of the national reputation of that team is heartbreaking.

I was involved in a lot of travel ball experiences, and probably got a little too excited about things once in a while. That tempered over time, with a little more perspective.

That unfortunate mess in Tennessee, and something I recently witnessed at a high school game, are just two examples of over-involved parents. Consistent support is fantastic, but there’s a line you cross that turns it into a negative effect on the event. A fun time sitting outside at a good ballgame can sour in no time if placed too close to that one person who can’t stop barking about every call.

Local experience

Sometimes it’s the coaches who are adversely affected. That’s the environment I recently witnessed when filling in for Carter Eckl during his recent trip back to California.

Who the Panthers were playing isn’t as important as what happened, so I won’t get into which team it was. But, I was stationed over by the visiting dugout for a time to have a good angle on photographs around home plate and the first base side.

There was a lot of traffic of dads in and out of the area next to the dugout, and it wasn’t just to hand off a Gatorade or bottle of water.

I don’t think parents should be able to hover around a high school team’s dugout, talking to kids about “tips” and such. A couple of times they shouted instructions about taking pitches or baserunning strategy that are clearly a coach’s decision.

It’s especially unnerving when dropping obscenities while doing so, as I heard a couple of times that night. (I thought to myself, wonder what response they’d be met with if Bill Krejci would have been the coach in that dugout?)

And, when I heard that dad casually spewing profanities in talking to his kid between innings near the bench, I realized why I’m finding it hard to enforce the no-swear rule in practices. They’re living that language in the home. So, some of them look at me funny when trying to stop them. I’m sure teachers could share similar experiences.

Fortunately, we seem to be in a good run of mostly positive support for the Creston teams, even when they’re going through the occasional growing pains young players experience in jumping to varsity competition.

And, I certainly don’t expect to see locals rolling around in a fight with visiting fans tonight at Panther Field! It’s Senior Night at softball and Little League Night at baseball. Sounds like a good time for everyone to get along, enjoy the evening and remember what this is all for — the kids.

Contact the writer:

Twitter: @larrypeterson


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