Violence on the Sidelines

August 2, 2000

For years, parents and coaches have lamented the rising level of violence in children's sports. Now there is growing concern with violence on the sidelines initiated by parents.

A recent article in Newsweek magazine talks about "Parents Behaving Badly." The most prominent example has been the hockey-dad killing in Massachusetts. But the article documents numerous examples demonstrating this growing level of violence. The National Alliance for Youth Sports is constantly hearing about violent incidents from their 2,200 chapters. The 19,000-member National Alliance for Youth Sports recently began offering assault insurance and legal assistance to its members.

In Amherst, Massachusetts, two soccer parents came to blows after one allegedly slapped the other's wife. Apparently the incident began when one mother heard another mother urging her son "to push off" opposing players. Words began to fly, and then much more began to fly.

Last fall a soccer referee in Florida was head-butted by the coach of a team of 13-year-olds. He suffered a broken nose, and the coach was sentenced to seven days in jail.

Some sports leagues have begun to take action. These include such things as mandatory adult classes in sportsmanship and setting aside "Silent Saturdays" when people in the stands are forbidden to speak.

No one can quite explain the rise in sideline violence, but the problems do seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity. Some attribute the phenomenon to a general decline in civility. It seems that every week we are talking about incidents of "road rage"on freeways and "air rage" on airplanes. It stands to reason that "fan rage" would increase as well.

Whatever the reason, parents and coaches need to ban together and demand that parents show respect and sportsmanship at their children's games.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.