A little over a week after I wrote a column bemoaning “parental bullying” in youth sports, the Indian River County sheriff’s deputies had to respond to a brawl involving adults at the Hobart Soccer Complex.
While I didn’t see the rhubarb on Saturday, I had my own unfortunate experiences refereeing an adult and 12-year-old player over the weekend.
The main event sadly began when 12-year-old boys from Brevard Soccer Academy and Boynton Beach Knights got into a “physical altercation” in the 64-team Vero Spring Classic, MPs said.
“Both (players) kept fighting until parents and family members from both teams walked onto the field,” MPs said. The parents said they rushed onto the field because the referees and coaches failed to stop the boys’ fight.
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Fellsmere girl comes to brother’s aid
During the melee, a 15-year-old girl from Fellsmere grabbed her brother’s attacker behind the neck, MPs said. Her brother played on the Brevard team.
Then, she told MPs, she was beaten and pulled on her shirt and hair. Then she began to fight back to defend herself.
Meanwhile, the girl’s 54-year-old grandmother said she was trying to protect her daughter and pushed a woman to the ground. This woman was taken to Cleveland Clinic’s Indian River Hospital by ambulance after suffering a broken wrist, according to deputies.
The victim in hospital declined to press a “crime battery” charge, MPs said.
Let’s hope some people learn lessons here. There is no reason for parents to rush onto the pitch in such situations. Coaches and referees who record inappropriate behavior and report it to football sanctioning organizations should be able to defuse the situations.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only bad behavior in a game involving 12-year-olds.
In a tournament final, some Miami Rush Kendall players, parents and a coach were outraged when our refereeing team failed to score a goal for their team that would have been a starting shot. They had fired from about 30 meters away; It hit the bar, bounced off and eventually landed in the hands of the Indian River Soccer Academy goaltender.
Neither of us could have been in the perfect position – on the goal line – to accurately determine if the ball completely crossed it. There are no video reviews on any 12 year old soccer game I’ve ever heard of.
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12-year-old insults referee
A minute or two later, after the Indian River team scored the winning goal and the game was over, an angry man ran onto the field from the parent’s sidelines and yelled at the officials. (I saw pictures of him later.) A field marshal, aided by a woman on the sidelines, had to convince him to stop.
I was later told that Rush’s parents had berated the IRSA goaltender during two close games they played over the weekend.
As I returned to the team’s sidelines, a Miami player angrily told me it was me (an unprintable offensive term). I told him that even though it was game over we could still give him a red card (a kick-out requiring a fine and suspension).
“I don’t give (expletive deleted)!” he replied.
From a 12 year old!
The red card was shown. A report of the matter and the youngster’s player card number were reported to tournament officials.
I can’t believe how upset parents and coaches get over games involving 12-year-olds that have little real meaning or long-term impact on their youngsters. Sure, it’s a competition, but it’s not a state title fight or one that professional or college coaches could watch; It’s travel ball!
While the vast majority of parents and players are respectful – some thanked us for our work – the vocal minority are ruining the beauty of youth sport.
This vocal minority influences their children, teammates, coaches, officials, etc.
And we wonder why is there so much fighting in the schools today?
In my last column, I quoted Randi Mazzella, a New Jersey mom whose son was scolded for being a teenage referee, and who then wrote a great article in the Washington Post in 2020. She mentioned that sport is a metaphor for life.
“Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to. Learning how to deal with disappointment, whether it’s a bad call or a hit when the bases are loaded, is a valuable lesson,” she wrote. “But that message has been suppressed by parents who want to protect their child from anything negative.”
I’m sure no one reading this would want to be the parent whose child quits playing or remembers your outburst in 40 years that didn’t have a positive impact on their performance or when they called an officer.
Imagine what your tantrum would look like on a video shown to the world.
You know there are videos. Can the threat of being featured in a video convince adults that they should hold back?
Do you have any suggestions?
This column reflects the opinion of Laurence Reisman. Support his work by subscribing to TCPalm. Contact him by email at email@example.com, by phone at 772-978-2223, Facebook.com/larryreisman, or Twitter @LaurenceReisman