Bringing Parents Up to Code

February 28, 2000

There's only one place in the galaxy where kids' sports is sane.

Jupiter.

Jupiter, Fla., that is, where on Feb. 15, the town's athletic
association did something we should've done in America 20 years
ago. It took the parents out behind the woodshed.

If you wanted your kid to play on one of the Jupiter
association's zillion teams this year, you had to file into a
minor league baseball stadium, watch a video on sportsmanship
and then vow not to insult, cuss at, holler at, spit upon, push,
punch, body-slam or otherwise abuse a coach, referee, team mom,
scorekeeper, fan, player or another parent.

You think it doesn't happen? In Port St. Lucie, Fla., a youth
soccer coach head-butted a referee, breaking the ref's nose. In
Wagoner, Okla., a 36-year-old coach started choking a
15-year-old umpire in a tee-ball game for 5- and 6-year-olds. In
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., a baseball game for 7- and 8-year-olds
ended in a parents' brawl. In Boca Raton, Fla., one of the
managers in a baseball game for 9- and 10-year-olds mooned the
opponents' parents.

And you thought pro sports was mayhem.

Jupiter parents had to sign the code of ethics, which included
such pledges as "I will remember that the game is for youth--not
adults" and "I will do my very best to make youth sports fun for
my child." Break the code and they're banished from the
association's games for as much as a year.

Problem was, that code didn't go nearly far enough. As a poor
slob who has coached kids' sports for 10 years and gone to more
kids' games than Mr. and Mrs. Osmond combined, I would've made
the parents sign this--in blood:

--I'll keep in mind that, in case I hadn't noticed, my kid isn't
related to the Griffeys. There's probably no college scholarship
on the line, to say nothing of a $116.5 million guaranteed
contract with the Cincinnati Reds. In fact, right now my kid is
filling the inside of his baseball glove with ants. He looks
happy. I'll shut up.

--I won't dump my kid out of the Lexus 20 minutes late to
practice and then honk the horn when I pick him up 20 minutes
early, as though the coach is some kind of hourly nanny service.
If my kid has to miss a game, I'll call the day before. It
doesn't cost any more to be decent.

--I'll remember that this isn't the seventh game of the NBA
Finals. This is the 6-year-olds' YMCA Lil' Celtics finals, and
by supper time not one of these kids will remember the score.
They will remember that I tried to ride the other coach
bareback, and possibly they'll remember the incident in the
squad car, but not the score.

--I'll realize that the guy behind the umpire's mask, whom I've
been calling "Jose Feliciano" and "Coco, the talking ape," is
probably just a 15-year-old kid with a tube of Oxy 10 in his
pocket, making $12 the hard way. I'll shut up.

--I'll stop harrumphing out of the side of my mouth about how
much the coach stinks, unless I want to give up my Tuesdays,
Thursdays and Saturdays every week, call 15 kids every time it
rains and spend $200 every season on ice cream, catcher's throat
guards and new seat covers. I'll shut up. (Oh, and once a year,
I'll tell her thanks.)

--I won't rupture my larynx hollering nonstop directions. For
one thing, my kid can't hear me. For two, because I'm shouting,
he can't hear the coach, either. For three, I really have no
idea what I'm talking about. Screaming at little Justin to "Tag
up! Tag up!" when there are two outs is probably not very
helpful. I'll shut up.

--Win or lose, I won't make the ride home the worst 20 minutes
in my kid's life. "You played great" should about cover it every
time. Then I'll shut up.

--One season a year, even if it kills me, I won't make my kid
sign up for an organized sport. It's probably not necessary to
have him play 91 hockey games in three leagues from September to
June and then send him to Skating Camp, Slap Shot Camp and
Orange Pylon Camp all summer. I'll try to remember that Be a Kid
Camp isn't so terrible once in a while. Neither is Invent a Game
Involving a Taped Sock, a Broom and Old Lady Winslow's Fence
Camp, come to think of it.

--Most important, I promise I'll do everything in my power, no
matter what, to remember to arrive at games with the single most
important thing of all...the orange slices.

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA

Jupiter moms and dads signed a code of ethics, pledging, "I will
remember that the game is for youth--not adults."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)