Across the Lakeland this week hundreds of youngsters are hitting the diamonds and soccer fields as another season of local sport kicks off. That also means that hundreds of parents and guardians are also getting immersed in another season of cheering and encouragement.
And while most of the kids on the fields are coached to play fair, enjoy the game and do their best — sometimes the parents need to be reminded of those foundational rules as well.
Associations across our region encourage parents to understand that despite the pressures of the lives around them, the sole reason for kids to play ... is for them to play. They have pressures as well; pressure to help their team, pressure to learn new skills — and unfortunately for some, strong pressures to please their parents.
From the sidelines, the shouts should be of encouragement for all the players on the field. When the cheers rise from the stands, the young players hear it. They rally from it, they succeed from it and they are happy. When they hear parents and fans shouting encouragement ... they are encouraged. The same is true of the reverse. When they hear parents or fans shouting insults at referees or coaches, or yelling at players to do better, the results can be heart-breaking for young athletes.
In a perfect world, there should be no need for parents to fill out waivers that ask them to be respectful at a sporting event — it should be part of a value system they instill in their own homes. It should be something they do because they are human beings. But sometimes, when the pressure of the game builds up, those values can be over-shadowed.
The Respect In Sport paperwork may not seem necessary to many families, but when parents and fans lose sight of the fact that minor sports is for the kids, the whole system suffers.
As the teams head onto the fields and the fans fill the bleachers and line the fields, it's an important reminder that these events and all they encompass — the efforts to get kids to games, and the efforts of coaches and referees — is for the kids.
Respect the games, respect the players and officials, and enjoy the games like the young players do.