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Violence in Youth Sports: On the Field and in the Stands

Now there is a thing called tacit community in which people will knowingly say or do the wrong thing when influenced by others with status.

Have you ever purchased something and been unhappy or dissatisfied with the product?  Your frustration grows until it becomes anger.  You need to lash out at something or somebody.  If you are going to be screwed over someone is going to have to pay.  It doesn’t have to be the person or company that you think screwed you.  It could be something or someone totally unrelated to what got you upset in the first place.

It could even be something small, which over time continued to grow and fester until it became a big problem to you all the while staying under the surface of your day to day existence.

No matter what you do you just can’t seem to catch a break?  Things keep piling up and you are continually faced with making decisions under stress.  Most of the times you are not even aware of something bothering you until someone close to you ask if everything is alright.  Your usual response. “Everything’s fine.”  And I can tell you from experience being married to my wonderful wife for 20 years when she says “everything’s fine” the you know what is about to hit the fan.

Think how quickly you get upset when someone cuts you off in traffic, or how a seemingly simple malfunction such as not being able to find your keys causes you to stress out more so than you normally would.

You don’t think about it much as events continue to happen and the stress inside you builds up and finally explodes. After, you wonder how that happened, or justify what you did.

Last night at a high school sports event I watched a parent pace the sideline.  Even with strict rules in place about staying on you your own teams’ cheering section this guy went up and down the sidelines yelling instructions to his son and harassing the referees.  After the game as he was leaving he told one of the other parents’s that” he did not know how much more of this he could take.”  One of the parents responded with “I know exactly how you feel.”  Really.

During the game as I talked with another person, neither of us had a child playing on either team, one of the players on the field made a very reckless play that injured both him and his opponent.  Now some may say he was being competitive.  No he was not.  It was a cheap play.  Here is what is happening.  The players on the field think that there is a chance for them to get an athletic scholarship so they are bound and determined to get ahead of the next player.  Pushed on by parents and coaches who do not stress the importance of community, sportsmanship, and humility, they model the very behavior the parents and coaches are seen doing during a sporting event.

The reaction in the stands was telling.  A couple of parents cheered the play as it almost scored a goal.  Another parent admonished the most vocal parent, and then turned to me and said “I guess that’s how fights start in the stands.”

The parent who was yelling at the referees was admonished by the Supervisor at the game.  So what was his response after the supervisor left?  He started to cheer exponentially louder for his son’s team.  His daughter who could not have been more than 10 years old put her hand on his shoulder and asked him to sit down and to calm down.

Parents are paying thousands of dollars to have their children belong to a particular team or organization in youth sports.  They want to get a return on their investment.  The angst meter is already ramped up by the very fact that their child is playing in the pay for play sports arena.  Inherently people want to belong to something.  As the family unit dynamics have changed over the years people still have the need to belong to a group or an organization to help with their identity.  In prison they call it solitary confinement as a way to take away that feeling of belonging as a severe punishment.

Youth sports used to be the place where you could put your everyday worries and troubles behind you and just enjoy watching your children play and have fun.  Sure there was always one whackadoodle in the stands but everyone avoided him and he was really left out to be by himself.  What people don’t understand is that by watching the person yell and make a fool out of themselves because the children certainly don’t want their parents behaving that way, they begin to subconsciously identify with the yelling parent or by not saying anything to them endorse that behavior.  Now I am not saying that you should go and confront that person.  You do not want to get in to a fight over a youth sports game, but what I do want you to be aware of is the effect it has on you and those around you.  Ever been in a room where it starts out with a group of people talking.  Then as time continues, the room f grows louder and louder and no one really seems to notice.  They just keep raising their own voice so they can be heard.  No, go to a school cafeteria at lunch time and you will see exactly what I mean.

Now there is a thing called tacit community in which people will knowingly say or do the wrong thing when influenced by others with status.  My generation called it mob mentality, but I digress.  It also seems that the more educated the person is has no effect on how he or she will react to these situations.

Let us take this classroom study done by Soloman Asch at Swathmore College and transfer it onto to the youth sport playing field.  Heck, let’s transfer this paradigm to everyday life while we are at it.  People have been sucked in by the belief that college scholarships are out there an attainable by following this pay for play model.  I recently had a young man tell me about John Wall and how he was discovered at a Reebok summer camp that cost $1000 to attend.  Two things form that statement.  One, do you really think that John Wall would not have played DI basketball and be in the NBA had he not gone to that camp?  Second, he proves the rule.  Thousands of kids have gone to these camps and what became of them.  Kids, coaches, organizations, and parents, use the exception to try and disprove our paradigm.  They say he did it, why not my kid.  Because the facts say the odds are incredibly small that your child will play in the NBA. 1 out of 100,000 kids between the ages of 19-23 made it to the NBA.

That’s why I wrote my book, Stop the Tsunami in Youth sports.  Soon to be available at my website in paperback form.

VJ Stanley has written a book called, “Stop the Tsunami in Youth Sports.” Achieving Balanced Excellence and Health while Embracing the Value of Play for Fun. You can follow VJ on twitter @VJJStanley, go to his website to read other blogs and see video interviews of Doctors, Athletes, coaches, and more. You can follow him on face book, or contact him at His book: Stop the Tsunami in Youth Sports is available in E-Reader and paperback through his website

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