Together, parents can set limits on unruly adults

Parents should help stop unruly adults' behavior

Cal Ripken

November 27, 2005|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

My child is getting turned off by the unruly behavior of some parents. What rules should be in place to prevent parents who display poor sportsmanship, and what should happen to those who do?

- John Spangler, Bel Air

DEAR JOHN / / This is an issue that seems to gain more and more momentum each year, and it can be a real problem.

I remember a few years ago a league in New England instituted "Silent Sundays." This was a day when parents and friends watching the games couldn't say a word and had to watch the games in silence.

I thought this was a great idea, so much so that I was hoping every day was a "Silent" day. I am a firm believer that games need to be returned to the kids. That is their time to perform and have fun. The "Silent Sunday" concept depressurizes the games.

As for specific rules, I would recommend a meeting (a town hall meeting of sorts) with the local rec league and all interested parents. This would be a time to identify problem behavior and collectively work toward a solution. These sorts of meetings are more helpful at the beginning of a season before any of the games are played.

Always remember that if your concerns are not being addressed in one league, you can always join another. There are a lot of good leagues out there that feel the same way you do.

My 14-year-old old son broke his leg last year playing football. This year he played again, but played with fear of being re-injured. Now he hesitates to compete in contact sports. Should we try and get him over his fear or allow him to drop out of sports like football and hockey unless he's ready?

- Linda Cummens, Menomonee Falls, Wi.

DEAR LINDA / / Obviously this is a delicate situation and ultimately he must make the decision to get back into contact sports on his own. I believe that our role as parents is to support our kids and help them get through these types of experiences.

We have the benefit of more experience than our kids, and I'll bet one of those experiences included getting hurt. Share your story with your child and make sure to tell him about your fears in working past the injury. Give him some reasons why he should try again, and then encourage him to do so.

Injuries can play havoc on your psyche. I was able to avoid major injuries but I certainly endured a few. I learned early on that if I played tentatively, I was more vulnerable to injury. By playing hard, I remained keenly aware of my surroundings. My concentration automatically increased, which put me in a more ready position. I believed my protection from injury came from my awareness of the moment. Who knows, this approach might get him over the hump. It worked for me.

Our area has three organized youth baseball programs with age groupings of 9-12, 13-15 and 16-18. It has been suggested to include 19-year-olds in our 16-18 league. Do you think it is wise or a good idea to have 19's competing against 16's?

- Gene Mason, Cumberland

DEAR GENE / / This really depends on the skill levels of the 16-year-olds and the 19-year-olds. This could work if the difference in skills were not too extreme. You'll have to use your good judgment in assessing the talent.

If you are concerned that the talent difference is too great, one simple solution would be to restructure the age groups. Maybe go with 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16 and 17-19. Of course you would need enough kids in the league to support this restructuring. I suspect numbers might be an issue in your league and that could be the reason this is being considered. As long as there is not obvious mismatches in talent, this could work.

I have always been an advocate of matching talent levels regardless of age. This certainly is more important at the early ages when kids are just starting to learn. Age is the general guideline, but it doesn't always serve the purpose.

When we've grown up and our talent levels are similar, age becomes irrelevant. The big question here is, "are the 16-year-olds grown up enough?"

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

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