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SPORTS: Taking the fun away


MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–Two stories in the news caught my attention this week, and provide further evidence of how much better youth sports would be if adults weren’t often there to mess them up.

The first story is about a middle school basketball coach in Pleasantville, N.J., who was senseless enough to give one of his players a “Crybaby Award” at a season-ending banquet.

According to USA Today, James Guillen, 24, had a trophy made for 13-year-old Terrence Philo Jr. with a baby on top and the words “Crybaby Award.” Guillen presented the award to the boy in front of about 25 parents and teammates.

The school board voted to fire Guillen for his actions, although the legality of that firing is being questioned.

The coach has yet to talk publicly about the incident.

Talk about classless. How on earth can a coach even get an idea to do something like this? Even if Guillen meant the trophy to be taken in jest and without malice, an awards banquet like this is certainly not the time to make such a presentation.

In another story, also from New Jersey, a soccer mom has been charged with assault for her role in a brawl between two girls soccer teams.

According to the Asbury Park Press, Mary Palm, 40, ran onto the field and assaulted a teenage girl when a fight broke out between the two teams. While others were trying to stop the fight, Palm was contributing to it.

“She was on this girl, straddling her, hitting her with her fists,” one woman said of the incident. “The woman had been screaming throughout the game.”

The report said Palm was charged with simple assault and “could face a grand jury investigation under a state statute that makes violent behavior at sporting and other community-sanctioned events a fourth-degree crime.”

Stories like these are surfacing more and more regularly. Coaches show incredibly poor judgment in dealing with their players. Parents — obsessed with their children’s sports activities — work themselves into a furor over a game that’s supposed to be played for enjoyment.

I’ve written before about how kids are losing interest in organized sports largely because adults are ruining the experience for them. One story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a couple of years ago addressed this very issue and cited studies from Michigan State University as proof.

“One study found that a little more than 30 million children, ages 3 to 14, step onto playing fields each year, and 70 million parents and 3.5 million coaches stand along the sidelines,” the story read. “Most of those children play to have fun, to be with friends and to learn, the study found. But by age 14, more than two-thirds of them have quit playing because it has become such a negative experience — the fault of adults.”

It’s sad that adults — those who should be responsible enough to know better — are the ones driving kids away from sports. But when adults are acting like the two mentioned above, it’s hard to blame kids for losing interest.
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Tim Ellsworth is a regular columnist for BPSports, online at www.bpsports.net. Visit his weblog at www.thewinningspirit.blogspot.com.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth
    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›