ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
What would happen if all moms and dads in Marion County were required
to attend a sportsmanship class and sign a code of conduct before
their children could play on a summer softball or baseball team?
Some would say, ?Well, it?s about time. Ol? John is a whiner and
needs it. I just don?t understand why I have to attend.?
Others would say, ?Are you crazy? I?m not a poor sport! I yell at
officials and coaches, but at least I don?t swear!?
Still others would say, ?Give me a break. What a waste of time.?
Hardly anyone would say, ?That?s a good idea. This will help me
things in perspective.?
Many years ago a local businessman coached a T-ball team. T-ball
introduces 5- and 6-year-old boys and girls to baseball and
The majority of umpires were junior high and high school youth.
it?s their first brush with officiating. For some, it?s probably
last. T-ball games are generally well attended. Parents enjoy
their little Billy or Susie play.
Is winning important? To some parents it?s very important. Others
hope their children don?t get hurt. For most young kids, winning
losing is secondary to having fun.
On one occasion, an umpire made a questionable call at second
The businessman/parent/T-ball coach didn?t say a word. Why bother?
It?s a learning experience for the young children playing the game
for the teenager who is the umpire.
At least one parent felt differently and told the coach so after
game. He wondered why the coach didn?t go onto the field and argue
call. The businessman/parent/coach said he wasn?t about to argue a
call in a T-ball game. After all, what?s the big deal?
Well, the big deal is that arguing calls in baseball is as
hot dogs and mom?s apple pie. So what if it?s T-ball game? Aren?t
obligated to stand up and demand our rights for fair play and
for all? Or, at the very least, shouldn?t we demand justice for
sons and daughters in a summer league game?
Perhaps you laugh at the thought of parents taking a sportsmanship
class and signing a code of behavior. If you lived in Florida, you
wouldn?t be laughing.
An athletic association near West Palm Beach, Fla., sponsors
basketball, soccer, football, softball and baseball for 6,000 boys
Jeff Leslie, president of the association and a father of four
?Parents are losing their perspective. We just want to try to
de-escalate the intensity that?s being shown by the parents at
Leslie says no parent has been involved in a brawl on the league?s
playing fields, but there have been screaming matches involving
parents and coaches.
A survey of 500 adults in five Florida counties showed 82 percent
believe parents are too aggressive in youth sports. Across the
country, parents have been arrested for assaulting referees,
About 2,000 parents showed up for the sportsmanship class. They
watched a 19-minute video on the roles and responsibilities of a
parent of a youth athlete. Then they had to sign an 11-point code
ethics pledging to behave at youth sporting events.
The first time a parent exhibits bad behavior that parent has to
return to class, watch the video again and sign another pledge.
second time, the parent and child are sent home from the ballpark
not allowed to return. Ouch.
It?s believed to be the first group in the nation to require
to attend the class and sign the ethics code.
Fortunately, we?re not that bad. We keep kids? games in
Like it or not, children learn a lot more than baseball when they
in summer leagues. It?s too bad really, because one
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER