To: Soccer moms, baseball dads and everyone in between.
From: Columbia County Recreation Department
9 March 2008
You haven't caused much trouble lately, and we want to keep it that way. Under a new proposal, all of you would be required to attend a three-hour class on sportsmanship. In other words, no yelling at officials. No biting, kicking, or horse-collar tackling opposing players , parents or officials.
We appreciate your understanding.
Yes, a proposal at a recent Columbia County Community and Emergency Services meeting would require parents, coaches and players in the county's recreation department to take part in a three-hour sportsmanship orientation.
The measure would affect all parents and players new to the area and those registering for a new sport.
So if your child decides he'd rather be A-Rod than Beckham, you'll have to first be schooled in sportsmanship.
"The parents want to see Johnny run down and score a goal in soccer," said county Commissioner Tommy Mercer.
"Anything that keeps Johnny from doing that, the parents get excited."
Mercer and others associated with the recreation department say there haven't been many problems with parents, though recreation manager Charlie Beale said there are usually two to three incidents each year.
They just want to ensure that there are no incidents like one in Stockton, Calif., in 2006, when a 36-year-old father rushed the field and tackled a 13-year-old football player on the opposing team.
Mercer said the coaches, many of whom are volunteers, and parents also could benefit from a rules clinic, so that they are informed as to what calls officials are making.
Problems arise, he said, when coaches wrongly interpret a call and berate officials.
"The parents pick it up and then you got a catastrophe," said Mercer, who served as a coach and referee in south Augusta for more than 30 years.
Mercer said he wasn't sure when or if the proposal would be adopted, but it seems to have a lot of support.
Richard Semanski, a former YMCA youth sports director and referee, said he instituted a one-hour orientation session with his travel teams and has seen it begin to curb what he called the "Billy Martin" mentality, a reference to the boisterous New York Yankees manager known for badgering umpires.
"You find out from (coaches), they say 'the only problem we have is the parents,' " Semanski said.
"And it's from a standpoint of them not being educated. They just don't know. They react and do things and say things out of ignorance."
Beale also would like to organize training sessions for coaches each year, ideally led by area high-school coaches.
The sessions would teach coaches basic techniques and drills.
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