NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — You wouldn’t expect your child to be cursed at, demeaned, intimidated, or grabbed in the classroom, so why is it sometimes tolerated on the sports field?
It’s one thing to see the confrontational behavior directed towards a professional athlete, but when did it become acceptable with pee wee players?
“You would never allow a teacher to sit over your child while they’re taking a math test, yelling at and berating them,” mom Alex Flanagan said.
At least one study found that 45 percent of kids reported verbal misconduct from coaches, including name-calling and insults during play. Some coaches reportedly even got physical, but the behavior often goes under-acknowledged.
“The problem has been systemic,” attorney Michael Seidl said.
Seidl has sued as many as 12 schools on behalf of students for abusive coaching.
“There is a strong drive to create winning programs, which invites part of this problem,” he said.
Even more heartbreaking is the feeling you can’t do anything about it, mother of three Alex Flanagan said.
“Your child has to almost endure it, I think, if you want to be able to make it on a sports team,” she said.
Flanagan is far from alone. Countless parents have posted anonymously online with similar complaints.
“When you think about what sports give you, it gives you community, it gives you an opportunity to build self confidence, to elevate your self-worth,” Darrell Johnson, Executive Director of the Positive Coaching Alliance, said.
PCA is a non-profit with the mission of transforming the culture of youth sports. Johnson says abusive coaching not only strips the child of the wide array of benefits sports provide, it can also backfire on the field.
“Coach to win, but also ensure you’re teaching life lessons,” Johnson said.
Seidl says come coaches need coaching of their own, and all coaches need a clear set of boundaries from their school districts. Flanagan, a sportscaster, started a blog for the parents of young athletes.
“There are so many lessons to be learned in youth sports, and that is where the problems have really come,” she said. “That parents are getting confused and coaches are getting confused about, and they think they’re professional coaches and athletes and that their purpose is to win.”
Experts agree you should talk to other parents and address any coaching concerns as a group. They cite one high school basketball team who refused to play until their verbally abusive coach was disciplined, and it worked.