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Jewish World Review March 1, 2000 /24 Adar I, 5760

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Parents take sportsmanship out of kids' sports -- I'M PERPLEXED as to whether I should cram this in the jam-packed "stupid parents" file or stuff it in the overstuffed "frivolous lawsuit" file. Perhaps I'll merge the files, and simply call it the "frivolous litigious parents" file.

I recently received a faxed copy of a letter to the editor of a local paper. This insightful letter was penned by a not-so-stupid listener to my show named Chris. In reference to an article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Chris wrote, "When this suit was brought to the court to be filed, the clerk should have handed it back to the father and said, 'You're an idiot. Go home and think about the example you have set for your son,' and to the coach, 'Please don't show your kids you're a quitter. Remember, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.'"

If this didn't ignite my curiosity enough, the headline of the article read, "Losing Season Prompts Dad to Sue Son's Coach." This is NOT a joke. After a dismal season, the Brunswick Cobras boys' baseball coach was sued in small-claims court for being a lousy coach. (What's next? Suing the home economics teacher because your kid can't achieve a perfect cross-stitch?) The father of the 16-year-old Cobra catcher demanded $2,000, "the estimated value of a seven-day Florida trip the team could have made, had it not lost every game. Most by a 10-run mercy rule." He claimed the team played so poorly that his son lost out.

When my boy was just a mini-bunchkin, he was a member of the American Youth Soccer Organization -- until I took him out. Don't get me wrong; the AYSO is a wonderful organization with very admirable goals. Its mission, in fact, is to develop quality youth soccer programs that promote a fun, family environment.

I yanked him from his AYSO team because I couldn't stand the parents anymore. So much for "fun, family environment." I had to quell my urge to show off my karate to some of these big-mouth mothers and fathers, screaming vile things at their kids and the coaches and just behaving like idiots. It wouldn't have done any good anyway, because if you so much as ask this kind of parent to let up on his or her kid (much less deliver a karate kick), they'll say, "It's my kid and I can do whatever I want!" To aggravate the already aggravated parents, my boy's team managed to lose every game, not because their coach was inadequate, but because their team wasn't as good as the competition.

Sorry, but you get a bunch of kids together for any given activity and they're not always all sterling.

This may not be considered very "PC," but so what? It's the truth, and there's nothing wrong with it.

Parents, don't you get it? Kids are supposed to go out there, get some fresh air, kick the ball around, learn camaraderie and good sportsmanship, and just have good ol' kid fun. Some can run faster, some can jump higher, and others may not be able to jump at all. There was one child on my kid's team who would just stand in the same spot and circle. I would have never dreamed of saying, "Can you take that kid off the team so we can win a game?" Every now and then, he did pay attention and kick the ball.

Despite the fact that this was likely great therapy for the boy, there were those parents out there who would go ballistic if any of the kids so much as kicked the ball in the wrong direction. These parents had to win. That was the point of the game -- even if they had to make the kids emotionally bleed.

Judge Charles Lawrie, Medina (Ohio) municipal court magistrate, threw the lawsuit out. He said: "What youth players should know is this: In life as in sports, you will try and will sometimes fail. There will be no apparent reward except to know that you did your best. The fact that your team lost does not mean it was your coach's fault. You kids had the ball in your hands. He didn't."

I believe that all of the unruly sports parents out there just live vicariously off their kids' accomplishments in order to nourish their own egos. I find it borders on the abusive in many cases.

So I'm very glad that Judge Lawrie did the right thing. The only problem is the kid still has the same dad.

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© 2000, Dr. Laura Schlessinger. This feature may not be reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without the written permission of Universal New Media and Universal Press Syndicate.