The situation between the mother of American football star Gio Reina and his coach, Greg Berhalter, has raised eyebrows in the sports world, not only because of the tactics used, but because of what it represents from the dark side of sports parents.
This type of parental involvement is prevalent in youth sports and sometimes even occurs in college ball, said Jason Sachs, president of the Positive Coaching Alliance, a nonprofit organization founded 25 years ago to change the culture of sports.
“It’s amazing how that can happen on the World Cup stage,” Sachs said. “This, at the highest level, is a microcosm of what youth sports have become in our country.”
Youth sports have grown into a behemoth in the United States. The industry has a $19.2 billion market, according to a 2019 report by Wintergreen Research. That’s $4 billion more than the NFL.
For cities, tournaments generate tourism revenue. For parents, scholarships can ease the burden of high college tuition fees. But kids can start to feel that what started as a backyard game is now a job.
“In our youth sports landscape, there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of focus on winning. There’s a winning-at-all-costs mentality,” Sachs said. “There’s been this shift in parents feeling that their status is on par with how good their kids are at sports. I don’t know how we got here, but it’s an unfortunate side of things.”
Videos of extreme accidents, eg Parents of 7-year-olds throwing punches at a baseball game Because they didn’t agree to invite a 13-year-old referee, who pops up every two years. in September, two Fights broke out in a El Paso youth soccer gameWith the participation of both parents and coaches.
But it’s the countless stories of bad behavior that don’t go viral that lead to the loss of the volunteers who make organized youth sports happen every weekend. Referees shut down their whistles, Creating a nationwide shortage of rule enforcers. High school football coach in Massachusetts Call it quits after 19 seasonssaying that the parental harassment was so bad that he needed an escort to his car after every match.
For Nina Johnson-Pitt, senior executive director of strategy at Little League, it was her wake-up call when her 11-year-old daughter was in her first year on a travel soccer team. In the last game of the tournament, she said, the team acted as if they didn’t want to be there. Then her daughter spoils a play, and the team loses.
“I remember feeling so angry. We got in the car, and I just unloaded it. She was in shock and crying.” At that moment, I was like, “Woman, what’s wrong with you?”
Johnson-Pitt turned it into a teachable moment for both of them.
“As adults, we are allowed to make mistakes and to show kids that you can apologize. I had to sit down and assess why I had such a terrible reaction,” she said.
Clarity came to Asia Mabe, a former college basketball player and sports journalist, after she interviewed a youth sports alertness coach. The woman suggested paying attention to how you feel internally when your child plays sports.
Mabe would get nervous before her daughter’s games and get angry if she didn’t do well. “I didn’t feel very well inside,” she said.
She realized she needed to take a step back and enjoy the sport again. Mabe founded the site I love to watch you play eight years ago. It contains blog posts, inspirational videos, and advice for parents trying to learn the line between support and pressure.
“When parents involve themselves in ways that push boundaries, kids lose interest. They withdraw. It happened with my oldest son,” she said. “If you don’t have your own ride, even as kids, it’s frustrating. It takes the fun out of it.”
Sports parents were so out of control that Little League made a volunteer pledge in 2002.
“I will teach all children to play fair and do their best. I will positively support all the managers, coaches and players. I will respect the decisions of the referees. I will praise a good effort despite the outcome of the match.”
The pledge is said before every Little League World Series game as a reminder of something that should probably make sense. But the survey conducted in 2012 before i9 sport A multi-sports provider for youth, it found that 31 percent of children surveyed wish their parents weren’t watching their games.
Johnson-Pete wonders if advances in technology have added to the parents’ intense involvement. It used to be that students came home with paper report cards, and grades were somewhat of a surprise.
“Now, I can keep track of every piece of paper my kid receives. I can keep track of everything they do. I try not to. I try to get my kids to come to me with these conversations, but knowing they’re available, it’s hard not to check them out,” she said. “I think just being able to do that made us want to be more helicopters. That extends to the sport.”
She said the role of the athletic parent evolves as the child gets older. When they start preschool, parents should encourage the child to be part of the team and listen to the coach. And as they get older, parents need to be there as a support system and not be critical. One of the things she asks her daughters for is how much they want to be involved. She said the answer changed over the years and strengthened their relationship.
Getting parents and children on the same page is something the Positive Coaching Alliance does in thousands of workshops each year. Often, parents fill out a questionnaire in which they rank what they want their child to spend of their time on sports. Things like college scholarships, leadership skills, and making friends are on the list. Then the child does the same.
“When a parent looks at their goals versus those of their children, it becomes a great conversation starter,” Sacks said.
When issues like playtime arise, allowing the child to take charge gives them a leg up in future situations, Sachs said.
“This is a great learning moment for a child to talk to the coach and say, ‘What should I do to get more playtime?'” Sachs said. “Hopefully, someday these kids will work professionally somewhere. It would be great if they had some experience holding conversations with an authority figure.”
Mary Beth Jahan Freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She has two young children.