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Mental Health Perspectives: Why Sports Parents Sometimes Behave So Badly

Featuring Dr. John Huber and Kristin Walker


Why Sports Parents Sometimes Behave So Badly

They yell at the referees, they yell at their kids, they yell at the opposing team and some even yell at their own team. They are rude, loud and many are aggressive. In a word, they are obnoxious.

Who are they? They are parents behaving badly at their child’s sporting events.

A recent New York Times article with video titled, “Parents Behaving Badly: Youth Sports Crisis Caught on Video,” by Bill Pennington, highlighted some pretty disgusting behavior. In the video, you can see and hear a parent at an eight-year-old youth soccer game hurling obscenities at a referee as he walked to his car. Another video showed a fan screaming obscenities while viciously kicking a ball into a nearby teenage referee.

According to the National Association of Sports Officials, harassment of referees has become so egregious that 70 percent of them quit within three years. Because of this, there is now a sweeping referee shortage.

The Times article describes an effort by Brian Barlow, an Oklahoma youth sports soccer referee, to thwart, embarrass and shame the growing tide of bad behavior by parents, fans and spectators at sports events. He created a Facebook page called “Offside,” which posts videos of their offensive behavior.

According to the article, Barlow, who offers $100 for each clip, said, “I do it to hold people accountable — to identify and call out the small percentage of parents who create a toxic environment in youth sports. It is a very visual deterrent and not just to the person caught on video, but to others who may ask themselves: Do I look like that jerk?”

Further, Barlow also started a program called STOP, which stands for Stop Tormenting Officials Permanently. The program distributes signs to be prominently displayed at youth sports complexes. Other signs include, “Warning: Screaming at Officials Not Allowed,” and “Caution: Development in Progress, Stay Out of It.”

There are now six clubs in Oklahoma who have paid a one-time fee to join the STOP initiative, and over 30 leagues around the country have made inquiries.

clinical forensic psychologist, Dr. John Huber, life change, mental health, mental health perspectives, mental illness, positive change, psychology, psychology headlines, social issues

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