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The Problem Of Violence In Youth Sports

A WBZ Reports special series by Jim Smith
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(credit: AP)

(credit: AP)

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BOSTON (CBS) – The competition in sports can be intense. From the pros to Little League, the pressure to win is a constant factor. That pressure can sometimes boil over, leading to violence among the young players, or adults on the sidelines.

Just a few weeks ago, a youth football game between 7th and 8th graders from Beverly and Saugus turned ugly. Pushing and shoving between players brought parents and coaches onto the field; the game had to be stopped.

The most notorious example of adult violence in youth sports was ten years ago in Reading. Michael Junta was convicted of beating fellow hockey parent Michael Costin to death during an argument.

“Ironically enough, that particular morning was not a game. It was actually an informal scrimmage, but it spun terribly out of control,” recalled Bob Bigelow, a nationally known youth sports speaker and counselor based in Massachusetts.

“The number one problem in American organized youth sports is simple: too many damned adults want to compete through children,” Bigelow said.

 Listen to Jim Smith’s report

While it’s a small minority of coaches, parents and players who cause trouble, you don’t have to look very far to find it.

“There was only one small incident and I was very uncomfortable with it,” a football parent told WBZ’s Jim Smith. “It wasn’t a big deal but there was one particular loudmouth that made it uncomfortable for everyone else.”

When the parents of a player goes overboard, mouthing off to coaches during the game about playing time for their kids, longtime Marshfield High School football coach Lou Silva has his own solution.

“Very simply, we don’t talk to them about it,” Silva said. “We’ve had our share of them, and they’re just embarrassing their own kids. That’s it. Period.”

Silva said he’s busy enough teaching the players sportsmanship, let alone worrying about their parents.

“These are children playing games,” Bigelow reminds parents. “You are a visitor and a guest to their games. You are not competing for your children. They are competing against each other. This is a very hard message to sell.”

You can hear Jim Smith’s series on the State of Youth Sports all week on WBZ News Radio at 12:05 and 5:05 p.m.

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