Fury Off The Field, Part II - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Kathy Morris Reports

Fury Off The Field, Part II

Jason Wilkie, director of the Jonesboro Parks and Recreation Department, says that its youth sports program makes sure it deal with overzealous parents. (KAIT/T.Chappelear) Jason Wilkie, director of the Jonesboro Parks and Recreation Department, says that its youth sports program makes sure it deal with overzealous parents. (KAIT/T.Chappelear)
Derrick Bickham coached his son's football team, and referees youth basketball. He says that parents were very well-behaved in the most recent football season. (KAIT/T.Chappelear) Derrick Bickham coached his son's football team, and referees youth basketball. He says that parents were very well-behaved in the most recent football season. (KAIT/T.Chappelear)

Seeing or hearing stories of parents striking someone else over their child's athletic competition is shocking to most. The National Alliance for Youth Sports researchers estimates that the number of confrontations and violent acts involving parents and coaches has tripled over the last five years.

An example of how the anger of a sports-parent got out of control, was a case in New England that stunned the nation more than two years ago.

"I think it came as a shock," said Jason Wilkie, director of the Jonesboro Parks and Recreation Department.

Thomas Junta beat Michael Costin unconscious at their sons' hockey practice at a Massachusetts arena. Costin died two days later from his injuries. The incident happened in July 2000, about the same time a youth sports program began in Jonesboro.

"As (the Junta case) began to play out in the court systems, we got a lot of e-mails on what was going on and what are you going to do to train coaches to keep this from happening in your programs," Wilkie said.

Wilkie says the league he overseas is based on parents volunteering to coach for their kids.

"Recreational sports, philosophically, is to give everyone an opportunity to play, and so that kids can learn the fundamentals of the game that they can have a lot of fun," he said.

Domenique Bickham learned about football for the first time from his father, Derrick, and his other coaches this fall. The 11-year old followed the program's rules for conduct, and the lessons his dad taught him.

"We did three point stance, not to keep our head down and how to tackle," Domenique said. "To be fair, not to brag, not to be mean."

"We wanted to teach kids how to understand about sports and life in general," said Derrick.

Domenique said that there were a few fights during his recently-completed season of youth football, but coaches quickly took control of the situation.

"The coach said to break it up and they shook hands and everything," he said.

Assistant parks director Jeff Owens says before the season; coaches are not only taught how to handle combative kids, but also aggressive parents.

"We emphasize being really good role models for the kids," Owens said.

Coaches try to diffuse the situation if possible. During soccer and basketball seasons, monitors are also trained on how to handle hot tempered fans, and parents have to sit opposite team benches. That is done, "so that they're not encouraging or discouraging players," according to Wilkie.

City Parks and Recreation leaders give people in the stands three chances before they're kicked out for good. On the first occurrence, they'll get a warning and be removed from the facility. If it happens again, they'll be banned from the facility. When strike three is called, the police arrive and escort the aggressive fan away.

"There have been one or two cases where we've had to do that," Wilkie said.

Derrick Bickham said that he didn't have to deal with any aggressive parents or fans during the football season.

"I thought all the parents were very supportive of not only the kids, but also of the program," Bickham said.

"You still want to have competition," Wilkie said of the youth sports program he oversees. "But, you want to have competition that is, that is not aggressively competitive."

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