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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Brunswick incident just the latest example of how we are over-invested parents

Just this past weekend, the Canadian province of New Brunswick, a beautiful part of the Maritimes, hosted a novice girls fastball championship event.

By all accounts it was a wonderful display of volunteerism, as well as youthful zest and talent.

Unfortunately, according to various media reports, it was marred by an incident involving parents. The allegations are that there were actual physical fights that took place, as a result of a play between two young players on opposing teams.

Tempers apparently flared after one player (evidently much bigger than another) appeared to run over another player while rounding a base.

To put things in perspective, the girls in this event were 13 and 14 years of age. I wasn’t there so of course do not have all the details. What seems clear is that there was a collision of sorts, and some parents felt it was “intentional”.

Words were spoken, things escalated, and a number of adults had to be led away from the park area. At the end of the situation, cooler heads finally prevailed, thankfully. But the young girls on both teams were, we are informed, quite distraught at the behaviour of parents.

It’s interesting and perhaps instructive that it wasn’t the young athletes who were in any way involved, other than the initial collision. If it were up to the kids, nothing further would have happened.

Instead, a number of parents, and one of the coaches, ended up being thrown out of the park after a nasty situation.

Thankfully, organizers were levelheaded enough to find a way to restore order, and both teams took a picture together at the end of the game.

We all love our children. Moreover, there’s no question that it can be difficult to control our emotions when we are watching our son or daughter in a competitive situation. We are all “invested” in our own kids and want to support them as best we can.

But surely we need to ask ourselves a simple question: If I act badly toward a coach or fellow parent, what example am I setting for my child? How will I look in their eyes if I find myself in a yelling match with other adults—or worse, a physical altercation?

Many of those youngsters in New Brunswick may never again play in such a prestigious event. For a lot of these young girls, the tournament will be a lifelong memory. The question becomes, what will they remember from what was supposed to be a special day?

Will they remember the competition, the special feeling of being part of a major event? Will they remember all the great plays, the wonderful moments— win or lose?

Or will their lasting memory be of a number of parents yelling, screaming, kicking, throwing punches, and eventually being escorted out of the park by police?

Whether the families went home by car, bus or plane, I’m guessing it was a long, and perhaps quiet—and sad— ride for many, even the “winners”.


For those visiting the site for the first time, we have developed a series of original articles that we hope can be beneficial for you or your local sports team or Club.

One of those pieces (see our menu on the right) has to do with Soccer Sideline Etiquette for parents.  We have also included our article on Hockey Rink Etiquette for parents. The simple principles put forward in those articles can be a practical, helpful tool in any sporting situation where parents are “near the action”.

I encourage you to read the articles and spread the word!