Little League Violence
It’s springtime. Along with the thoughts of spring and spring flowers comes Little League Baseball, and don’t forget baseball is America’s game. What do you know about Little League Baseball vs “Regular Baseball?" I think that depends on who you are and where you live. However, unless you live in a bubble you know Little League is for kids. They start practicing before the season actually begins. Little League Baseball was started by Carl Stotz in 1939 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania to give kids something to do.. It is now worldwide in over 80 countries... an incorporated organization. There are over 40 million kids playing on Little League teams all over the world. The premise is outstanding. It is an organized sport for young kids to teach them the ideals of sportsmanship, fair play and teamwork. That was Mr. Stotz ambition and still the ambition of many adults today. Fair play and teamwork will carry kids through most of their life experiences. However, their learning that at Little League is not always the case. After all baseball is a game where you are a success if you hit, how many Little Leaguers actually hit the ball every time at bat and how many Little League ball players are actually ball players at all? Hitting the ball is a skill that takes time and practice for most. Also, many of the kids are just in it for the fun of it and are too young to care enough about the competition aspect. There are others who just like wearing the Little League uniform and feeling like a Major League Baseball player. They just want to see their friends and 'play ball'. However, even at this age there are competitive kids who are in it to win it and there are kids who have been playing baseball since they were able to stand!
There are adults out there who see Little League as a way of making their kids a star and putting them in the limelight. They have all the right intentions but they are a bit misguided. They believe that maybe a scout will see how marvelous their little boy or girl plays in Little League and decide to follow them and help them gain notoriety as well as provide further in depth training. To that end some parents are constantly coaching their son/daughter. The Little League schedule itself can be grueling. Daily practices, including weekends and holidays. Games at night when kids should be doing homework. Weekend games of catch, daily batting practice, several different teams on several different leagues in an attempt to extend the season. If they can make their kid good enough he/she can play on the All Stars Team or play on a regional circuit. Have you noticed anything missing just yet? The kid? Suppose little Joey or Sally just wants to play ball and isn’t interested in being a ‘star?’ To some parents that doesn’t matter, it’s their goals that are important, what do kids know, and after all they tell themselves, I’m doing it for Joey or Sally’s sake not my own. I just want what’s best for Joey or Sally. They don’t factor in that Joey or Sally is the worst player on the team or that Joey or Sally catches butterflies when they’re out in left field. Joey and Sally are playing baseball because they think it is fun and their friends are playing, but it is no big deal one way or another. However, by age six or seven they’ve probably learned not to reveal the truth to Mom or Dad who wants them to be a Major League ball player. Dad is reliving his childhood and trying to make Junior the ballplayer he never was. He knows now that practice is necessary and discipline helps improve skills. He doesn't know whether Junior feels the same way or not.
How it SHOULD be
If you’ve ever been to a Little League game I’m sure you’ve seen many other different types of adults watching the game. Next time you go, have a look around. You have parents, parents’ friends, grandparents and sometimes just interested adults who live near the Little League field. But have you looked closely at this group of adults? You’ll see one or two sitting reading a book. They’re at the game because their kid wants to play baseball. They really don’t care about baseball but little Johnny wants to play so here they are. That is one ‘type’ of adult at a Little League game. Then you have the small group of adults who are talking to each other almost non-stop. They give a cursory glance at the game when they hear a bat hit a ball or someone start to clap. They’re interested in the game but they like socializing with their friends better. Another adult may be sitting quietly watching the game and cheering all the kids on, encouraging the kids on both teams, really believing this is good sportsmanship and the way to be at a kids baseball game. He may cheer a little louder for his kid’s team but he cheers them all on to keep their spirits up. He understands what Little League is really all about. “Satisfaction does not come with achievement, but with effort. Full effort is full victory.” (Mahatma Gandhi) This adult and his kid are the ones who know more than the meaning of Little League, they understand the meaning of fair play and not hurting other’s feelings.
Then there’s the fanatical parent. This is the one who is in it to win it. This parent may have been deprived of the Little League opportunity as a child and feels this is his/her chance to make up for the deprivation and drives his child to play the game he never could. He takes everything about the game very seriously and expects his kid to do the same. Sometimes he’s lucky and has a kid who does feel the same and has an innate desire to win at any cost. This is a dangerous duo because both can be ruthless and not the least interested in fair play and sportsmanship. Winning is all that counts to them. A bad call by an umpire is reason to yell and scream. A teammate that strikes out is “an idiot.” People’s feelings never enter into this parent’s equation and unfortunately the kid follows his/her parent’s lead. After all, isn’t this what he/she had been taught from birth? They are the “Charlie Sheen’s” of Little League Baseball. They value only themselves and their winning. If you’re on a losing team – you’re a loser.
The worst type of parent is the combative parent who is always right. It doesn’t matter what his kid is doing, he wants his kid on the winning team. Nobody knows how to play ball like he does and there isn’t an umpire alive that can see worth a hill of beans! This parent questions every play and every call. This parent yells at everyone, from his belittled kid right on up. He argues with managers and coaches – on both teams. His bravado has no foundation but you can’t tell him that. He is obnoxious and unreasonable just about all the time. Other parents give him the evil eye but no one actually wants to confront him. Verbal abuse (swearing and demeaning one of the athletes) is just as harmful and just as prevalent. Swearing at the umpire is not uncommon. More and more you see on the news or read in the papers about fights breaking out at Little League games. There’s a good chance our combative parent is the one behind the action.
Parents Behaving Badly
Much of the violence that takes place at school football games or Little League Baseball games involves parents fighting with coaches, referees or each other. Here's a few examples of parents behaving badly.
•Three parents were arrested after a full-scale brawl between parents, coaches and fans at a youth soccer game in San Diego in 2001.
•In April 2005, the father of a Texas high school football player shot and wounded his son's football coach because he didn't think his son was getting enough playing time.
•In 1999, a parent was convicted of assault after giving $2 to a 10-year-old Little League pitcher to hit a batter with a fastball.
•In 2004, two teachers were arrested for fighting at a girls' basketball game in Alabamba, while a parent was arrested for punching the referee.
A few years back; “a Wakefield Little League mother was ordered to watch a sportsmanship video and write an essay about it after she was found guilty yesterday of assaulting an 11-year-old boy who was cheering the opposing team at her son's game nearly two years ago, according to the Middlesex district attorney's office.” Another newspaper report I found; “Jason Chighizola, a 34-year-old coach of the Slidell (Louisiana) Bantam league "Yankees," was convicted this week of slugging the coach of the "Red Sox" after refusing to shake his hand during the post-game lineup. The Red Sox had just beaten the Yankees in the final game of the season to claim first place, so Chighizola was understandably upset. So upset that after being pulled off of the other coach, he ran to the dugout to get a bat and started swinging that like a mad man. (The game took place last year, but the trial was held Thursday.”) Another more recent event, “Michigan dad James Sherrill was arrested recently after pulling a pistol on another player’s dad at a high-tension soccer match between—get this—6- and 7-year-olds….He once saw a father spit on an umpire. “Parent ejected, kid embarrassed,” he says. (From the Santa Barbara Independent in an article called Little League Lunatics.
What kind of example does this set? What are these parents teaching their kids and the other kids on the teams? There are Little League Rules and Regulations but they aren't for parents, they're for players. Certainly this is not the norm, I’m sure you could attend many Little League games without sitting through an adult fight or an aggressive kid, however, this type of behavior is becoming more common than ever before. Note also, it’s not just Little League Baseball, but all kids sports share in the outbursts of violence from baseball to soccer to football and on. In reviewing the issue it appears violence at all sporting events for all ages is becoming more widespread. Recently a Staten Island Jets fan was beaten while attending a Colts game in Indianapolis. Another news item, “A man whose nose was broken in a fight after a Kansas City Chiefs game settled a lawsuit with the team’s parent company.”
“The savage beating of a San Francisco Giants fan in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium has touched off fresh concerns about fan violence at sporting events. Police in Los Angeles are still searching for the two men who beat and kicked Giants fan Bryan Stow in the head after a Dodgers-Giants game. Stow suffered a fractured skull and probable brain damage .” This was reported by CBS News.
Parents explect their kids to be shining examples of all the good things they've taught them but forget their actions speak louder than their words. This violence in both Little League and Major League sports definitely has an impact on how kids react to what they like and don't like on the field!
Dr. Joel Fish says, “Most of these fan violence situations take place in crowds, where all of a sudden we get caught up in the heat of the moment and we act oftentimes differently than we act in any other situation,” he says. “I’ve talked to many people who the next day, after being in a crowd situation, say, ‘I can’t believe I did that, I can’t believe I said that.” So where does this leave us? If we can’t stop violent behavior at adult sporting events what can we do at kids sporting events? Even though it is a minority of adults involved it has to stop.
In regard to kids sports some states have adopted pledges to good sportsmanship which must be signed by all parents and players, in other areas they hold meetings prior to the season opening explaining what will and will not be accepted at a game. Yet others have involved police presence at games.
What are the answers? Should we have the kids teach their parents? How do we stop violence at all sporting events and bring them back to sporting events, not arenas for violence? Who is responsible? Questions everyone involved in Little League needs to think about.
Obnoxious Parent Benched
- Little League PSA Benches Obnoxious Parents
A new Little League commercial asks parents to clean up their acts in the stands. But will sideline offenders listen or just keep yelling?
Violent Behavior Incidents in Youth Sports
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