Children's games and sports are meant to bring happiness, community, and teamwork all to the same playing ground. National establishments like Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. (PWLS) and the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) are meant to create sportsmanship while also "seek[ing] to develop well-rounded young men and women," so that children learn the importance of fair games and respect early in life. Unfortunately, nowadays the people who need the most sportsmanship education are the select few parents who take theirildren's games a little too seriously. Sports psychologists, concerned about the effects this may have on the children, have coined the term "Little League Parent Syndrome" (LLPS) to describe this unholy trend that is slowly growing more popular with adults—and more detrimental to children—in youth sports.
Some extreme parents, such as coach Cory Petero (pictured left) have even gone so far as to physically assault other parents, players, or referees. Petero, 36, tackled a thirteen year old boy directly after the boy made a late hit on his son during a youth football league game (watch the video here). But he is not the only adult to get too emotionally invested in his kid's youth game—hockey parent Thomas Junta, who brutaly beat another supervising parent after practice one night, let his passions get the best of him as well. Although these stories are not very recent, they serve as prime examples of what is still happening today. At the same time, parents alone are not to blame for the uproar either: pee wee football coach Robert Watson attacked a referee for ejecting him from the game (watch the video here), starting a large, violent brawl in the midst of five and six year olds.
There is no need to discuss how terribly wrong the actions of adults with LLPS are; any person with a minute sense of morals can understand how unacceptable it is to mix violence with children's sports. My focus and concern, rather, is for the children whose lives are directly affected by their surrounding aggressive role models. Youths learn largely from observational learning, or what psychologists call the Social Learning Theory, where "an observer's behavior changes after viewing the behavior of a model." Young athletes look up to the immediate adults in their lives (parents, coaches, and parents of other children) for examples of what is socially appropriate and what is considered taboo. If the adults they admire and mock are modeling the wrong ideals, then how are the children supposed to know what is right and what is wrong? Youths are always told "violence is not the answer," but if they see a "grown-up" being aggressive, how are they supposed to sort out the controversy? The result is a very confused, angry child, with a contradictory parent for a role-model.
Along with the psychological confusion, children are also experiencing first hand violence as a result of LLPS. Studies about the effects of violent households, watching too much gruesome television, or playing sadistic video games (like the one pictured on the right) have all suggested that too much of this influence can result in a more aggressive and hostile adolescent. If watching television and playing video games can influence a child's aggressiveness, then watching a live brawl (in which their parents are participating) is sure to make the youth more susceptible to hostility later in life. Therefore, as human beings, we have a responsibility to our children to set good examples and be righteous role models, so that they may follow in our footsteps and lead the best lives possible. If we fail to show our descendants the right choices in life, from whom will they learn? It is imperative that the Little League Parent Syndrome stops completely; not for the sake of stopping violence, but for the sake of the children who are watching.