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Listen To Your Children

Last July the nation was stunned when a fight between
two Massachusetts fathers over a practice hockey match ended with the death of
one of the men. We can hope that similar incidents won’t happen again, but violence
at children’s sporting events is nothing new and continues to increase with alarming
frequency. The following incidents also occurred last year:

  • Two soccer parents were arrested for disorderly conduct and simple assault
    after the two fought at a Memorial Day under-12 boys tournament.
  • In Maryland a father knocked down and kicked a baseball coach when his son
    was not chosen for the all-star team.
  • A youth-baseball coach in Florida was charged with punching an umpire and
    breaking his jaw.

This year more than 20 million American children will
compete in organized sports, and chances are many of those children will be exposed
to what is now referred to as "sports rage."

Fred Engh, president of the National Alliance for
Youth Sports, made this comment in an interview last summer: "When 70 percent
of the children that play sports drop out by the age of 13, that should tell us
something. The number-one reason, they said in a survey, was that it ceased to
be fun."

The fun stops when adults take winning too seriously.

Not long ago a man I know was discussing with me the
loss of a basketball team we both enjoyed watching play. "Oh well,"
I said, "it’s only a game."

He looked at me and grinned, "Not in Kentucky,
it isn’t."

My friend was teasing but there are those who believe
in winning at any cost.

If parents don’t teach good sportsmanship, if they
condone poor behavior by other adults at sporting events, if they bad-mouth the
referee, then sports rage will continue to plague our society.

I once told my son that "it doesn’t matter if
you win or lose, it’s how you play the game."

"If that were true then there wouldn’t be a scoreboard,"
he replied.

Who wins and who loses is important for only a fleeting
moment in time. Today’s headlines are yesterday’s news. If we can teach our children
that character matters more than the final numbers of a game, then we will have
scored the biggest victory of all.

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