Not just here: Youth league concerns nationwide

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Little league violence is by no means a problem that pertains only to the city of Demopolis, it’s everywhere. Wherever the game is played, you’re sure to find it in one form or another. Over the years there have been numerous stories reported on violent incidences occurring during or after some little league game.

The St. Petersburg Times reported on one such event back in 2002. According to the article entitled: Baseball Officials Reviewing Violence, two brawls broke out at a little league baseball game in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

“Little league Baseball officials in Williamsport, Pa., will decide if Pinellas Park players and parents acted so badly after a tournament game that they instigated two brawls. One parent had part of his ear bitten off and a 9-month old baby was knocked to the ground,” the article said.

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Again in 2002 there arose another little league incident, this time in Las Vegas, New Mexico. According to The Associated Press in an article entitled: Little League Game Ends With Violence, a fight broke out between two coaches after a game that ultimately led to an all out brawl between the two teams.

“It started out as a game between two undefeated teams. It ended with the opposing coaches brawling on the ground and fans joining the melee,” the article said.

These however, are considered some of the more minor incidences of the game. According to The San Francisco Examiner in an article entitled: Castro Valley’s Little League Violence No Surprise, there have been far worse violent incidences at the little league level.

“During the 1990 season an assistant coach in East St. Louis fired several .38-caliber shots at a 16-year-old umpire for calling a 9-year-old player out at home. In Whiteville, N.C., last year, a coach slit the throat of another coach during an on-field argument while 100 pre-teens, including both coaches’ sons, looked on. In Beckley, W. Va., a coach was arrested for punching a player’s father,” the article said.

Luckily none of these incidents have occurred here in Demopolis. And many may feel that they never will, not here, not in small town America. But they do, the question is why. Why do people get so emotionally involved over little league ballgames?

According to Dr. Gregory K. Moffatt in his 2001 article entitled Child’s Play, the answer is quite natural.

“One reason this happens is that these events involve our children and we are very protective of them. If we perceive that our children are frustrated, angry, or being mistreated by a coach, official, another player, or even a spectator, we feel the need to defend them. Often, however, the child perceives a parents’ intervention, not as a defense, but as an embarrassing intrusion. More often than not, they would prefer we keep our mouths closed.

Second, we take the game far too seriously. We get wrapped up in the excitement of the game and expect it to be error and injury free, but that is an unrealistic hope. Part of the fallibility of athletics is learning to deal with normal disappointments and errors of the game. Umpires make mistakes, fans say thoughtless things, and coaches will make decisions we do not like. Life is full of disappointments, ‘unfair’ decisions, and frustrations. Little league provides a place for children to learn how to cope with this normal part of life. Many times, though, parents and coaches miss the opportunity to teach a life skill- instead demonstrating poor coping skills through their anger, catcalls and aggression.”