Some of my most cherished memories growing up involve the youth sports I participated in.  Unfortunately, not many of those memories were of spectacular goals, amazing breakaways or dramatic three-pointers since I pretty much sucked at a lot of sports, and I was usually the smallest kid on the team.  No matter.  To be included, be part of a team, make friends and just be out on the field made it worth while.  It was the same when I started coaching youth sports. The rewards far outnumbered the disappointments.  Except of course, having to deal with the obnoxious sports parent that prowled the sidelines, loudly “coaching” and distracting their own kid, demeaning other children, criticizing coaches and officials and generally making a boorish ass of his or herself.  I finally had enough when it was determined that there would be no winners or losers; everyone got an award just for the ability to show up wearing the correct color jersey.  And of course, there were exceptions made for that too.

it's called play....

Sports teach kids a lot about life.  That sometimes, there are people far more talented than you. That sometimes, working hard really does pay off; sometimes it doesn’t.  That the greatest award isn’t handed out on the field, it’s the gift of those friends you shared the adventure with. It’s usually the warped mind of some loudmouthed parent, trying to regain the only triumph they ever had, or even trying to attain one they never could by proxy through their child that ruins the experience.  Every once in a while, even the kids of these yahoos would express the wish that mom or dad would just sit down and let them play. Operative word being play.

Here’s another kid that gets it.  A thirteen year old boy qualified as a hockey referee for Hockey Canada, officiating pee-wee games in New Brunswick. During one game, he and other refs were taking some ridiculous amounts of abuse from a hockey mom (or is that hokey-mom) and a coach for one of the two opposing teams.  After having heard quite enough, he ejected both mom and coach from the arena, exercising authority to do so granted to him by Hockey Canada’s zero tolerance policy regarding abuse towards officials. Unfortunately, police had to be called to the arena to ensure his safety after the game.  Even more disappointing?  The mother involved has absolutely no regrets over the incident.  Mom of the year candidate.

Teaching our children to be good sports is a lost art.  Many kids don’t seem to be able to handle either winning or losing gracefully.  Look to the stands and you’ll see why, in almost any venue, any sport, at any age level. 42 year old Joseph Cordes was in the stands of his daughters’ high school hockey game when he thought it a great idea to blind the opposing goalie by shining a laser pointer in her eyes for much of the third period. Young goalie Kathryn Hamer said “it’s kind of like when you look at the sun and then you look away, you see that spot and you can’t see for a couple of seconds.”  Her team was tied 1-1 in the third period when boy genius aimed his laser at her.  She gave up 2 goals after that and her team lost 3-1. Oh, and Mr. Cordes got off with a charge of disturbing the peace. Why he wasn’t charged with assault or endangering the welfare of a child I’ll never know, but hey this is Massachusetts after all. Coincidentally, opposing coaches had complained that someone was pointing lasers at goalies eyes at the same school a year ago. Even more coincidental? Mr. Cordes was arrested and convicted of trying to break into a drugstore in 2008 located across the street from the same hockey rink.  A dad you can be proud of.

Ms. Hamer seems to have gotten out of it with no injury.  That’s not the case for girls high school basketball coach Jeffrey Yackus in Indiana.  Mr. Yackus was disciplining two team members for fighting by having them run the dreaded laps around the gym, that time-tested ritual that always made me regret that lunch I had earlier in the day.  Obviously convinced that his little girl was suffering abuse at the hands of her coach, one Shelly Miller approached coach Yackus and dropped him to the floor with a punch.  Hero that he is, Miller then climbed on top of the prone Yackus and continued to beat him into unconsciousness.  Miller was charged with battery.  Yackus got to go to the hospital where he was awarded with a concussion, all for the joy of teaching sportsmanship to the child of one example of the type of refuse that inhabits the bleachers these days.

My greatest fear as a coach?  If these idiots were this unhinged out in public, what were they like at home, alone with their kids?  No refs, no officials, no coaches, no pads and no witnesses.  Just anger and a vulnerable kid.  It’s not a game for some…