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Sep, 2022

Adults are crashing the kids’ party

I receive an alert in my inbox each day with stories that mention Pop Warner. They appear in newspapers and on television stations from around the country. Often they tell a heartwarming tale or it’s an NFL player recalling his Pop Warner days. Occasionally, it’s a story that reflects poorly on our name. As I was preparing to write this letter this week I scanned the news alert and saw a couple of stories that made me wince.

There was a story from Kansas that called out the fact that every youth sport is having difficulty finding officials. We know this firsthand. One of the reasons can be found in the other story in that news alert – a head coach outside Boston was upset with a call and berated a referee to the point that the official ejected him from the game. Irate, the coach took a football and whipped it, hitting the ref in the chest. Whether he meant to hit the ref or not is irrelevant. The coach was arrested and charged with assault. 

Incidents like the one in Massachusetts have become too prevalent. Not only do they reflect poorly on our name but on the state of youth sports and society, in general. Too often we hear about simple disagreements becoming physical – in stores, on roads, and during youth sporting events. During games and competitions, we see it from parents and coaches, and we’re starting to see it from young athletes.

While there are far more examples of positive coaching and supportive sports parenting, the vocal minority is getting louder and more abusive.

Last year one of our leagues in New York  had to take the dramatic and unfortunate step of canceling the tackle football season for three of its associations after a handful of football parents fought and screamed abusive language at other parents, coaches, officials, and players.  

As we said last year at the time, it is the young people on those teams who are paying the price. Losing the chance to play the sport they love and having to witness physical and verbal altercations in the stands among parents is scarring. It is also making people re-assess if it’s worth it to become a youth sports official. This kind of behavior has no place in youth sports. Or anywhere for that matter.

Adults, whether on the sidelines or in the stands, the message is simple. Do better. Be better. 

Slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. Put the experience in perspective and remind yourself these are children at play. Nothing more than that. Let them have fun. The kids probably won’t remember the score in a month or what you think is a missed call. What they will remember is the positive experience of playing and competing with their friends. And they will certainly remember their parents getting into a fight on the sidelines or their coach getting arrested.

So let’s be present in their lives, sit back, be positive and let the kids be kids. And adults, be adults.

Jon Butler


Pop Warner Little Scholars

P.O. Box 307 
Langhorne, Pennsylvania 19047

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