Don’t Let This Happen: People Give Face to the Worst in Youth Sports

In April 2016, cellphone video captured two men brawling during a youth baseball game, and those few seconds of video went viral. National and network news used those few seconds of video as an example of everything that is bad about parents infringing on children playing organized sports.

On June 19, 2019, it happened again!

In Colorado, a youth baseball game involving children, ages 7 and 8, exploded into a brawl that spilled on to the field and sent children scrambling for safety. Multiple adults are shown throwing punches and assaulting one another.

The Little League Baseball® and Little League Softball® programs are known the world over, and the common misperception is that all youth baseball and softball is Little League. And often the term “Little League” is frequently misused when discussing any sports in which children participate.

Both of these vicious physical attacks by one person on another shows how out of control people can be about something as meaningless as the outcome of a child’s game. This incident did not occur in a chartered Little League program, but the reality is … it could.

Situation

The 2016 video clearly shows that as the game is going on, and adult male comes through a gate and on to the field. A coach, standing in the third-base coaching box, points to the aggressor, words are exchanged, and they begin to fight. Seconds later, the combatants are throwing punches and rolling in the dirt as young children stand by in clear sight of the melee. Other adults intervene, and the two are quickly separated, but the deplorable behavior is caught on video, which is promptly sent to a local news outlet.

In the more recent video, several adults are shown on the field shoving one another, and multiple punches were thrown, including frames of one individual striking another as he lay on the ground near the backstop. In the background, children are seen running away from the fracas.

Outcome

In the days following the release of the first video, law officials interviewed witnesses, but no arrests were made. After a cooling-off period, the individual who assaulted the coach apologized, and the target of the on-field attack chose not to press charges. A spokesman for the local police department said that the league's board members plan to address the coaches' actions through the disciplinary board and that no further legal action was pending. But, the damage was done. The video has now been seen by millions and continues to reflect poorly on youth sports.

The later video was posted by local law enforcement officials, who are searching for the assailants. An investigation is ongoing.

Note to Leagues

The Internet, social media, and mobile devices have contributed to making the world a much smaller place. During this same time, youth sports opportunities have multiplied, and sadly, a small percentage of parents take these games for children too seriously and emotionally, regardless of the sport. This example is a cautionary tale. Be assured that an overwhelming majority of parents are great supporters, volunteers, and advocates for their children.

Little League recognizes the need to help its leagues avoid similar situations. From the Little League Players’ Pledge and The Little League Parent and Volunteer Pledge and the program’s parents and volunteer codes of conduct (as part of the A Safety Awareness Program), to online training and education resources (available through the Little League University website), background checks for volunteers, the child protection program, e-newsletters (including The Parent Connection), and relationships with organizations such as the Positive Coaching Alliance, Little League is inclusive and proactive in its efforts to inform and inspire, while touting self-worth, accountability, and character in all of its participants.

Every day, the morals and ideals of Little League extend well beyond the boundaries of sports. As stated in Little League’s official regulations, playing rules and policies, “Little League is a program of service to youth. It is geared to provide an outlet of healthful activity and training under good leadership in the atmosphere of wholesome community participation. The movement is dedicated to helping children become good and decent citizens. It inspires them with a goal and enriches their lives toward the day when they must take their places in the world. It established the values of teamwork, sportsmanship and fair play.”

After these despicable situations, these words have never been more relevant than they are right now.