The Most Outrageous Parenting Fails From the Sidelines
It’s one thing for young athletes to get heated on the court or the field in the spirit of competition — and quite another for the chaos to come from the sidelines. But that’s exactly what we see more and more today: sports parents behaving badly.
And the advent of smartphone video means it’s well-documented online, on social media and even on the evening news.
The Opposite of a Post-Game Handshake
This brawl, between coaches and parents at a Pee Wee football game in Virginia, made “Good Morning America.” “The post-game handshakes are supposed to teach good sportsmanship, but these coaches from two rival Pee Wee football teams did the opposite — throwing punches in a wild on-field fight in Virginia,” said anchor Amy Robach.
The "Good Morning America" segment goes on to feature similar behavior caught on film at a softball field, a little league game and a wrestling match. Robach warns viewers that, while no one was injured in the Virginia incident, and no charges were filed, “It’s important to remember, everyone has a cellphone camera.”
Why Is This Happening Now?
While unsportsmanlike sideline behavior has always existed, 21st century youth sports is just … different. A common theory is that modern parents are simply more invested — with respect to time and money — than previous generations. And in fact, one study found that parents often invest more than 10 percent of their annual gross income on one child (typically, a son) playing sports.
Add to that the intense competition for an oft-cited end goal — money for college, even though only 2 percent of high school athletes earn sports scholarships. Still, it’s no excuse — especially when the very point of youth sports is to build character and foster teamwork.
An Easy Remedy
One remedy? Naming and shaming. Brian Barlow, an Oklahoma youth soccer referee, took the shaming approach one step further: He founded the Facebook page Offside, offering $100 for videos of parents behaving badly on the sidelines. To Barlow, the bounty is worth the opportunity to correct the kind of behavior that not only threatens him and other youth referees, but the community spirit of youth sports in general.
“The children are watching. The children are sponges. The children are becoming what they see,” Barlow told Good Morning America. “We have to reverse this trend.”
Read on for the most outrageous examples of absurd, foul, violent or just plain childish adult behavior from the sidelines. (As one might expect, be prepared for strong language and violence.)
Just a Quick Pepper Spray Break
ABC 10 News in San Diego featured a fight among more than a dozen parents in the bleachers of a kid’s soccer match in the city of Encanto, California. Pepper spray was deployed on parents and children alike to break it up.
ABC’s Brian Shlonsky reported that three people went to the hospital, presumably because of the pepper spray, but that no one was arrested. After the police left the scene, however, play resumed until the lights at the field went out.
Everyone on the Defense
In this raw video published by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, angry parents attack referees after a match between the Sarasota and North Port youth football teams in Sarasota, Florida. One referee is body-tackled at full speed and taken down to the ground, as a woman can be heard off-camera screaming, “Oh my god, oh my god,” and the melee continues as other parents, players and officials try to break up the violence.
Late in the video, it appears that one of the perpetrators comes to make peace with the football players of the opposing team. A woman, again, speaking off-camera, can be heard saying, “You bet this is going on YouTube.”
A hockey dad, carrying a baby in his arms, belittles a player on the ice, saying, “Just ‘cuz he’s a midget.” The person taking the video calls the man out on his behavior, saying, “He’s not a midget, OK? Enough. He’s a hockey player,” and another man, the player’s father, confronts him saying, “Thank you for calling my son a midget.”
The irate hockey dad says, “Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me or I’ll cave your f*$!ng glasses in.” As the tirade continues, the man taking the video says, repeatedly, “I’ve got everything on tape, it’s OK. I got it all on tape.”
What Is It About Hockey?
Another irate hockey dad, this time at York Ice Arena in York, Pennsylvania, charges down to the ringside of his daughter’s youth hockey game screaming unintelligibly. He pounds on the glass in anger — and smashes it. A woman is heard, off-camera, saying wearily, “Way to go, Paul.”
“This is another unfortunate example of the totally ridiculous obsession of some parents with youth sports,” the rink manager told The York Daily Record, according to The Huffington Post.
The father was banned for life from the ice rink, had to pay to fix the safety glass and faced a disciplinary hearing in his hometown back in Florida.
And Then There’s Wrestling
Wrestling parents get heated as well. “Keep watching the head butts, ref. Call something fair for once,” screams one parent, from the sidelines of a match between Grand Ledge and Holt, two high schools outside of Lansing, Michigan.
Then, everything becomes chaotic after what is deemed an unsportsmanlike tackle by the Holt wrestler.
A Tight Game
It appears that the point of this video isn’t to name and shame the angry parent who appears at the end — it’s to capture regular game play.
But after a tight game by the Dallas Mustangs that ends 72 to 69, and — importantly — after which most of the players seem calm and sportsmanlike, even bored — the camera shifts to one parent screaming unintelligibly at the refs in an all-too-familiar tone, then walking off, alone. None of the players seem to pay him any mind.
Not the Way to Act
In this narrated and edited video, from a U16 baseball game, a parent on the Glen Burnie, Maryland, team hurls epithets at the opposing team’s coach, who is filming the game.
As the person who posted the video explains, “The coach videos every play and uses it as a coaching/teaching tool for the players. The fact that he was calling the camera guy names isn't the point of putting this up. Nobody was hurt by ‘words.’ THE POINT IS, THIS IS EXACTLY HOW A PARENT SHOULDN'T ACT AT THEIR KID'S GAMES. I know that JD doesn't represent the community of Glen Burnie. He wasn't ejected from the game either.”
Cursing Up a Storm
Upset with the ref’s call, a dad at a youth football kid storms the field screaming, “He hit him in the back. In the back!” As another parent restrains him, he threatens, “Where is that f*$!ng kid?!”
The person narrating the video jokes, “You wanna see the tape?”
Not the Point
In this video, from the Offside Facebook page, you can’t tell what game is being played, although it seems likely that it’s soccer. The game is not the point.
The stereotypical sportsanity from the sidelines is exactly what Brian Barlow wants to end. You can hear the woman who is taking the video, at the very end, saying, “I got ‘em.”
Egging Him On
While most of the anger, vitriol and violence is inflicted on coaches and referees, it sometimes goes the other direction. In this raw video of a Division 1 middle school youth baseball game, the coach of the Plano Sports Association Monarchs, who had just lost a game 6-4, picks a fight with a parent on the winning team, the North Texas Rangers, who says, “Second place ain’t bad.”
A multi-person brawl ensues right off the baseball diamond. Later, after reviewing cellphone video, the Plano police determined that the blame was mutual, according to the Fort Worth Star Telegram.
Up in Arms
ABC 7 in Maryland featured two fathers from New Jersey in a bloody fistfight outside the USSSA Eastern World Series for girl’s softball. Both were arrested on charges of second-degree assault and disorderly conduct — and were later released.
The 18-year-old, Karon Washington, who caught the fight on video, told ABC 7, “They should have kept it away from the kids, you know what I mean? ... [There were] nothing but 10- or 12-year-olds there.”
Adding Insult to Injury
The incident that sparked one dad’s outburst happens before the filming starts, but the aftermath is clear. This soccer dad must be held back by the team’s coach, as he hurls insults at the opposing coach, “the whole goddamn team and your community.”
You can hear someone calling in his description to the police. According to the person who posted the video, “After the game (about five minutes later), the dad came after the alleged offending boy again and had to be physically restrained by his son’s two coaches.”
The Worst of the Worst
And in this list of the worst of the worst of sports parents behaving badly, it’s a litany of outrageously bad adult behavior, ranging from Timothy Lee Forbes, who bit off a coach’s ear at a sixth grade basketball tournament, to Joseph Cordes, the basketball dad who shined a laser pointer in the eyes of the goalie of the opposing high school hockey team.
And yet, no one has outdone the most infamous crazy sports parent to date: Thomas Junta, who beat another father to death outside the hockey rink, after arguing about rough play during practice.
Just Plane Foul
Lastly, sometimes, the beef isn’t limited to the sidelines. In May 2018, in Briarcliff Manor, New York, at least one parent paid $1,250 to have a plane fly over a high school baseball playoff game, calling for the coach and his assistant to be fired. The Journal News called it “a new low” at a time when “criticizing high school coaches is more prevalent than ever.”
That About Sums It Up
As the Briarcliff schools’ superintendent Jim Kaishian put it, in an email to The Journal News, "In an attempt to promote self-interest, some adults become willing conspirators in the theft of joy from youth athletic programs.”
In the comments on a tweet about the same flyover, someone coined the hashtag #CouldntPayMeEnoughtToCoachTheseDays. Enough said...