Random Stew It seemed like a good idea at the time.


Parents Behaving Badly

Warning: this is a rant.

I have a vice of absolutely loving good coffee so I'm familar with Starbucks' The Way I See It campaign, which is, in their words

a collection of thoughts, opinions and expressions provided by notable figures that now appear on our widely shared cups.

And I admit, I've seen more than my fair share of Starbucks' cups. The cup I received yesterday had the following thought on it.

The Way I See It #252
Give me world politics, gender politics, party politics or small-town politics ... I'll take them all over the politics of youth sports.

Brenda Stonecipher
City council member and Starbucks customer in Everett, Washington.

This cup's communiqué conveyed a colossal conjunction of coincidence (I couldn't resist the alliteration). My son's football team has been the stage for truly ugly politics this season.

Before I begin truly ranting, let me say that all of the coaches in his league are purely volunteers and --having been a youth sport coach myself-- I applaud them for their huge commitments of time and energy to what is largely a thankless job.

OK, now let the rant begin.

My son plays football in a league for 11-13 year olds; his team is a brand new, expansion team in the league. Before the season, all new players participated in workouts so that the coaches could grade them. The coaches then held a draft, allotting new players to each team. Normally, this would be a fair system.

But it's not.

First, unlike any of the other youth sports leagues, it turns out that most of the football coaches are also on the board of the football league; therefore, they make their own rules and guard their own henhouse. Second, the best kids are quickly earmarked by some of the coaches, pulled from the tryouts, and quickly assigned to the coach's team -- many times without the knowledge of the other coaches. Third, the expansion team had to fill their roster completely from the tryouts. The team is predominantly 11 year old boys; only 4 or 5 of the boys are older than 11. A better method would have been to randomly pull a few players from each existing team and put them back into the draft.

The result is that the competitive inequities in the league are staggering. My son's team began their season by playing the three best teams in the league in their first 4 games. Despite good coaching, my son's team suffered serious beatdowns in those games. And the natives parents were getting restless.

The kettle boiled over during the 4th game of the season when we played the team coached by the president of the league; he's also apparently one of the worst offenders in regards to stacking his team. His boys were huge, fast, and mean; our boys were taking a beating. At the beginning of the second quarter, our running back was cleanly slobberknocked. He was knocked unconscious for a few moments and when he regained consciousness, he reported that his neck hurt and he was numb and couldn't move! Emergency personnel were quickly on the scene and the boy was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Yes, he ended up being OK -- turns out he received a stinger.

While the injured player was being tended by coaches and emergency personnel, some of the parents began loudly denouncing the inequities in the league. Without input from other parents, they swiftly decided and informed the coach that the team parents did not wish the game to continue. Their dissatisfaction quickly flamed into outrage and they took up torches and pitchforks to become a mini-mob. Now they spiraled out of control to the point that a policeman firmly commanded them to calm down. Their calm lasted only a few moments and only because the injured boy was taken off the field in an ambulance at that moment.

Then the opposing team's coach, who is also the president of the league, ill-advisedly decided to confront the mob. And the keyword there is confront. He was already the focus of the mob's anger and when he confronted everyone with a "write down your issues and we'll address it at the board" attitude, tempers really flared. Some parents were screaming epithets at him. Meanwhile the teams had been dismissed and were wandering around with shocked and scared looks on their faces. The boys were already scared and upset because their teammate had just been carted off the field in an ambulance, and now they were witnessing their parents in a mob situation. It was a sickening disgrace; I quickly grabbed my son and left the field.

A parents' meeting was convened the next night with all sorts of allegations made against the league board and the president in particular. The upshot of the whole meeting was that three representatives would take up the matter with the county commission, specifically to change the league structure so that coaches cannot serve on the board. We'll see how that goes. I used the meeting to chastise the parents that lost control at the game and told them how shamefully I thought they acted in front of the boys; I actually got a few amens and some applause for those comments.

Despite the parents' bad behavior, they do have a point; some of the coaches do stack their teams and it does create a safety issue for a team composed of young, inexperienced players. Competitive inequities exist at all levels of sport, but it's disturbing to think that men who volunteer their time to coach football would essentially cheat to win. Does it stroke their egos? It smells like a person that sets a video game's difficulty to novice level, and then puffs out their chest because they beat the game.

I know it's not the type of person I want my son to learn from or emulate.

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