New Mexico schools are back in session, and the fall sports season is well underway. We all have heard the horror stories of angry parents on the stands yelling at the coach, the referee, other parents, and even student-athletes.
Last week, the New Mexico Athletic Association released a statement addressing parent and adult fan behavior at soccer games. Unfortunately, it's not just happening in soccer. It's happening in other sports, as well.
Now many long-time officials are hanging up their whistles because they've had enough of being threatened, harassed, targeted in person, or on social media during and after a game.
This action is disturbing to read about, horrifying to view as a spectator, and … as a journalist …. unbelievable to watch as the scene unfolds.
Dan Gould is the Director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports and a Professor of Kinesiology at Michigan State University and believes that not only has the professionalism of youth sports helped create a more contentious game-day experience but also because of a shift in culture at large.
"I think you should shake your opponent's hand, honor the game, honor the official," said Gould. "And the culture is kind of taking us away from that. I think we need to more directly talk about it, deal with it, enforce it in our programs," he said.
Yes, the culture surrounding youth sports has changed over time, how fans and parents can improve behavior at sporting events, and the vital role physical activity and teamwork play in a young person's life.
Gould wants parents to remember that "you want your child to have fun, but you also want them to learn some life lessons ... most of the kids are going to play their last game in high school. How can we make it a great educational experience?"
He also recommends that parents avoid analyzing the game or tournament in the car on the way home.
Gould says the most important discussion to have at that point is where you should go to get ice cream, pizza or a hamburger.