Editorial: Youth sports are being destroyed

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association ofSports Officials, 90 percent of the nation?s high schools sportsorganizations are losing officials and are having difficulties findingreplacements for them. This is just a small part of what?s wrong withyouth sports and a contributor to problems with violence and anger beingaccepted in society.

Stories in papers across the country are chronicling the violence andpoor behavior on the fields and in the stands at children’s and youngadults’ sporting events. Thus, it?s no wonder that game officials arescarce. In the NASO report, the officials for high school sports citedabuse from fans and on-field unsportsmanlike conduct as the number oneand two reasons they were quitting.

In July 2000, Thomas Junta allegedly killed an official at his son’sLittle League hockey game due to a disagreement about a call theofficial made. In Massachusetts, an attacker struck an official whoejected a player from a youth hockey game. After 30 parents in El Paso,Texas started a brawl at a football game, officials forced the parentsto attend a 3 1/2-hour class to teach them how to act at youth sportingevents.

Parent and fan interference at youth sporting events not only disruptsumpires, it contradicts the very reason children and teen-agers areinvolved ? to learn from the sporting experience. Instead, children areseeing certain parents acting aggressively and destroying the spirit ofthe event. In the process, children are learning that violent behavioris acceptable.

The public perception of blaming the media and entertainment industriesfor violent actions among youths may hold some weight, but parents needto accept some of the blame. Children are learning bad habits from theirparents, and until discipline takes precedent at sporting events, thistrend of declining civility is going to continue to plague youth sports.