There are certain sayings that are repeated over and over in the world of youth sports. One of these phrases is “Keep it in perspective.” Most sports parent and coaches correctly understand this phrase to mean “Hey, it’s only a game” and “They are just kids” and because adults understand, youth sports move along smoothly with no real problems. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. A positive sports perspective usually holds for some adults, but for many others, this perspective only lasts “until” their own child or team is involved. Perspective is often thrown out the window when the first undesirable incident happens to many adult’s own child or team.

Unfortunately, adults, who lose perspective, take the fun out of sport for kids and other adults too, with damaging displays for all to see. Parents, who lose perspective, do not realize the negative effect they are creating or do not care because they feel their child is being treated unfairly. Sometimes, these harmful sport stories make the national or regional news, but at the least, they are talked about around the local playing fields. The public displays of negativity in youth sports are only a small part of the “lack of perspective” problem. Even worse are the many parent-child confrontations that occur away from the sports venues, in private, when games are over. These incidents that are not in the public view are just as serious and are often worse when others are not around. These private incidents often damage kids’ emotional well-being, at the very least.

The negative incidents will never completely disappear in youth sports because there is so much emotion involved. Youth sports involve competition with emotion, so some intensity is inevitable. The problem is that emotion often gets the best of people under stressful situations and many adults go beyond what is considered acceptable child-rearing behavior. These “out of perspective” adults lose all concept of what youth sports should be about – the kids. Of course, there are many parents and coaches that have a good youth sports perspective and do not create depressive environments for young athletes. Unfortunately, it only takes a few negative situations or comments to ruin things for athletes, and not just those directly involved. Many kids directly involved as well as those that just observe the negative situations often lose their zest for sports at a younger age than they should. Additionally, tension between child and parent is often built to the point where long term relationships are damaged.

What can be done to limit these unfortunate incidents and help adults gain a better perspective when it comes to youth sports?

Like most things, the answer lies in better education of everyone involved with sports. Often, there are preseason instructional clinics for coaches on the skills of the sport, but rarely information on how to effectively work with kids and their parents. Some leagues have handouts for parents before the season, which is a good start; however, this is often a one-time thing with no follow-up as the season progresses when it is most needed. Leagues, sports organizations and schools must do a better job of defining perspective and reinforcing this definition at sporting events, if the negative situations are ever going to be curtailed.

Along with more consistent training for sport parents and coaches on how to deal with kids, parents, umpires and league officials, all youth sports venues should have permanent banners or signs placed at the entrance and/or around these sport facilities. This sign, with a definition of sports perspective, will be visible for all to view, day in and day out. It would be more difficult for adults to get out of line if someone just needs to point at a sign when someone begins to cross the line of inappropriate behavior. Hopefully, the memory of reading the sign will carry over when parents leave games with their kids, too.

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