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Parents, Just Shut Up And Let Them Play

What I really want to say to parents in the stands!

A couple of weeks ago I arrived at my son’s varsity baseball game in another town. As I walked towards the field I heard a parent standing at the top of the bleachers screaming towards home plate. “Strike out,” he said. “You stink, sit down,” he continued. As I came closer to the spectator I realized there were a number of other parents sitting around him laughing. Then he said, “you suck 11, strike out.”

Since my work on “Bullying in Sports,” I have become an Upstander. Yes, I am the one parent who actually says something to those parents who are acting inappropriately. When he said number 11, I realized it was my son at the plate. I maintained my composure and said, “please stop.” He immediately responded, “who do you think you are, I can say what I want.”

Well, in the state of New Jersey the NJSIAA (the governing body for athletics) passed a no trash talking law in all sports in July 2013. Clearly he wasn’t aware of it and didn’t care what I was asking. I explained to him (and the others) about the new law against trash talking and they all looked dumbfounded. They had no idea what I was sharing with them. Here was an adult, screaming a my son to strike out as if he was playing in Yankee Stadium. I asked the parent one more time to please stop. However, this time he claimed I was trash talking towards him and told me to, “go sit on your side of the field.”

At that point I raised my voice and told him he was violating the law and to stop his behavior as it was my son at the plate. By then, everyone’s attention was focused on me. A school administrator approached me stating that he was the Athletic Director. I explained what was going on with the parent and reminded him that talking trash from the stands was not allowed. Furthermore, any player, coach or parent needed to be removed from the game based on the new legislation. He promised that he would go talk to the parent.

I made my way to my son’s team’s part of the field, set up my chair and realized what I had done. My son did strike out and I watched him walk back to the dugout fuming with anger. At first I thought it was because of what I had done. But I later learned that he was pissed that no one was intervening. Fortunately the Athletic Director did the right thing and made the parent leave, as well as the other parents who were standing around not stopping his actions.

One small victory within a very large battle.

Too often these situations occur in the stands from parents. It takes place in every sport and every age. This type of behavior at youth sports must end. It is inappropriate and unacceptable. In the end, these young athletes become our leaders of tomorrow whether they are professional athletes or not (nearly all will not become professionals). Young players watch the adults and mimic their behavior. If it’s okay for parents and coaches, then it will be okay for the players. Let’s put an end to the negative behavior. Who’s with me?

Coaching Kids To Understand The Impact Of Their Words

How I taught my little league team to stop saying “that’s so gay.”

The players of the team assembled around the bench as practice was coming to an end. I was walking off the field with the catcher carrying some baseballs and my fungo bat. We were carrying on a conversation about the upcoming tournament when I saw the players goofing around, and heard someone say, “Dude, that’s so gay.”

Mid-step I raised my voice and said, “Who said that?” All the players looked confused as if I had caught them with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar. I asked again sternly, “Who just said that?” As the players tried to figure out what to do or say by not place blame on one of their teammates, I softened my voice and asked them one last time, “Who said that comment?”

Once they recovered from the discomfort of my question, a very interesting conversation and discussion took place. They were all eighth grade students and apparently not one of them considered anything wrong with saying “that’s so gay.” At the time, not one of the twelve young men sitting around in a circle even made the connection of that comment being derogatory or hurtful in nature.

One of the players even shared that his father often made that comment when he thought certain behavior wasn’t appropriate. He continued, “If my dad says it, then how can it be wrong?”

Initially, they were quick to defend their comment because there was nothing intentionally harmful or hurtful about it. They were “just kidding” and “fooling around.” Everyone knew they were joking, and it wasn’t intended to do harm to anyone. That was when I saw my teachable moment.

I pressed them to interpret the intention behind the comment. Why say “that’s so gay?” What’s it supposed to mean and insinuate?

They all knew the word gay was about homosexuality, but at that moment did not consider it being negative. However, the more I pressed them to understand those words, the more they became aware of how it very well might be offensive to some students.

As I continued the conversation, it was clear they believed that not one of them was gay, therefore that comment really didn’t offend anyone of the players on the team. I asked them to tell me how they knew for sure that no one on the team was gay? There was silence — none knew with certainty.

I continued with the discussion, “If you were gay, how willing would you share that knowledge with your teammates?” They shook their heads immediately. They all admitted that, given the nature of the discussion, the comment was really not appropriate.

In the end, I realized that no one had ever taken the time to explain why it was inappropriate. They believed it was okay to joke in that fashion and there was little, if any, harm to anyone.

They were confused, as it seemed like the only thing to say in certain moments. So I shared with them a number of other words they could use instead. Here are some of them: absurd, ridiculous, pathetic, annoying, disgusting, goofy, and asinine.

Author Don Miguel Ruiz’s acknowledges the importance of words and has authored a book called The Four Agreements. The first agreement says for us to be “impeccable with our words.” When we take the time to help young teens understand words, the power they have, and how the words they chose reflect the type of person they are, we help create a more compassionate generation.

It is time to stand up to those words in order to do right by numerous youth who are doing all they can just to simply survive and live the best life they possibly can. If we don’t, then who will? If not now, when?