CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A video showing a youth baseball coach charging at a heckling parent with a baseball bat went viral Wednesday.
As bad as the incident looked on the video, it also shed light on a much bigger issue. Carolina youth league teams report they are struggling to find coaches and referees due to the fear of having to deal with aggressive and even violent spectators.
Even young players are dropping out in droves all because of the parents who can’t keep their cool.
“Unfortunately it’s happening pretty frequently,” said Bart Lundy, head coach of the men’s basketball team at Queens University.
Lundy also coaches little league t-ball for his son. So, by his own admission, he’s “seen just about everything” when it comes to disruptions of a game.
“Kids need to fail. When kids see their parents can’t handle adversity how are they going to handle adversity?” He said. “There are more lessons to be learned on that bench than being the star, because eventually, that bench hits everyone in life. Whether it’s in sports or somewhere else.”
In a recent survey of more than 17,000 youth sports officials, 87 percent said they have been verbally or physically attacked by a spectator and 47 percent have feared for their safety.
Maybe it's no surprise that videos of little league brawls are all over the internet.
Now, more coaches, refs and kids are deciding that being on the team just isn’t worth it.
“It’s really sad,” Lundy said. “Hopefully those parents can watch those videos and see what they look like because that’s a behavior they’re going to model for their children. Every coach is trying to do their best. Leave them alone and let them do their job.”
National organizations are pushing parents to settle down before it takes a real and permeant toll on the culture of youth sports.
“It’s a win-at-all-costs mentality,” Tina Syer, Chief Impact Officer with Positive Coach Alliance, said. “Kids are very aware of their parents and coaches during the game.”
Syer suggests coaches give parents something to do during games to distract them from getting heated.
“Like a positive chart,” she suggested. “You can write every player’s name on a piece of paper, hand it to every parent and have them write one or two things each child did well."
"If they’re focused on that, they won’t be focused on every single play or the umpire," Syer added.