Dear Editor, Another cycle of Brady Youth Sports (BYS) begins with flag football, and I am compelled to write this letter to address a sensitive issue that has not been successfully dealt with thus far. My desire with any comment is to be constructive and encouraging, but I must bring to light what I think is a detriment to BYS: inappropriate conduct by adults. An incident occurred last basketball season so egregious in nature, and by a league official, to make matters worse. When did it become okay for an adult to behave in such an inappropriate manner’ And when did the rest of us learn not be outraged by such behavior. I have been involved in BYS for several years as a parent, coach and sponsor. We have all witnessed far too often what is inappropriate behavior in adults and kids involved in youth sports, and this leaves me with great concern about where BYS is headed. We are not isolated in these problems as across the nation there are efforts to bring civility to youth sports. If action is not taken to curb the rudeness, disrespect, obnoxiousness, the heckling, the abuse, the poor sportsmanship, there could be incidents of violence as tragic as the Maryland father, disappointed that his son had been left off the all-star team, knocked down and kicked a coach; or as an Oklahoma coach who had to be restrained after choking the teenage umpire during a T-ball game; or even worse as when violent behavior plaguing youth sports hit an all-time low in July 1999 when the tragic death of a volunteer hockey coach following a fight with a parent in Massachusetts. Our youth sports experience is a resource that we have for our children to learn and develop basic sports skills, but also an opportunity to learn some critical life skills. Our children have highly impressionable minds, which are also eager, willing and capable of learning. We have the responsibility to teach them the right things, even when it demands more of us, not the wrong things that may surface quickly out of frustration over situations. It is a golden opportunity to teach the right things, but instead I see more learning of disrespect, self-centeredness, and poor sportsmanship that is allowed by parents, coaches, and officials because we don’t speak up. The influence of youth sports in general can be drastically injured by these actions on or off the playing field. Don’t misunderstand me’this is not universal, but occurs far too often and at what I would consider an alarming frequency. Too often we witness tempers, obnoxious behavior, verbal abuse of players, coaches, officials, referees and other parents from any one of these groups. This has no place in youth sports. It is past time we raise the standard of how sports programs are conducted in our community. Leadership, understanding and the ability to set a good example are important characteristics that must be displayed by league officials, coaches, referees and parents. Players, parents, coaches, referees and league officials all bear the responsibility of upholding the good name of the program. The bad behavior occurring during the games only serves to weaken the entire organization in the community. This is a youth program, designed to benefit the youth. Much of the benefit they derive from it stems from the example set by the adult leaders. Be sure it is a good example. If we teach our children principles but fail to practice them, we create problems. We fail our children if we say don’t do as I do, but as I say. Inasmuch as the program is designed to aid the proper development of youth, the entire program must be considered a failure if this does not happen. Let’s not act like adults taking child’s play far too seriously. Youth sports today are becoming more about winning than about playing, more about adult egos than kid’s enjoyment and participation. Studies have shown that more than 70 percent of children below age 13 drop out of youth sports because there is an over-emphasis on winning. Given the odds that your child will play or will even want to play college sports, or even less likely professional sports, doesn’t it make sense to give youth sports back to the kids’ Participation and fun for all should be the name of the game, whatever the game, when it comes to kids’ sports. “Sport” is a synonym for fun and enjoyment. What do we do’ I think we all need to examine our role, and why we are involved in youth sports. I believe there are well-meaning volunteers filling coaching, administrative and officiating roles, who give a considerable amount of their time and are put in difficult situations by the inappropriate behavior that occurs. They have my full support. Many parents are overstepping the boundary of good behavior simply because there is no consequence. Set rules of conduct and apply them fairly and to all involved from players to league officials and make everyone accountable for their actions. Ultimately, if you lay down the rules, enforce the rules justly, I believe you will have cooperation and abidement and a meaningful learning experience for the kids. We must lose the win-at-all-cost mentality. If you win but have not learned sportsmanship, skill, discipline, commitment, loyalty, patience, fairness, character, teamwork, just to name a few, then you have not won. Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi is supposed to have observed that “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” when in fact what he actually said was, “Winning isn’t everything, but striving to win is.” We must redefine “winning” in terms of effort rather than outcome, and to do this is to make youth sports more humane, meaningful, satisfying and enjoyable. Striving to win and giving one’s best effort are objectives that every coach, player, parent or adult can, and should support. We should not only be expected to not behave as jerks, but should be expected to be positive motivators and stress that giving one’s best effort if far more important than winning. We should provide support for the child and serve as a role model to each other. I am not saying that yelling in support, displaying enthusiasm and excitement are inappropriate’they are and should be a part of the game, but it must be in a positive manner directed at any and all participants exhibiting desirable characteristics, skill or effort. My interest is doing what is best for the kids, and I will be in full support of any action taken toward an adult (who should know better) displaying inappropriate behavior, practices, or actions that are obviously not in the best interest of the child. By having sincere and appropriate goals, working together, appreciating the time and effort of volunteers, establishing and enforcing rules justly, and being intolerant of bad behavior, we can improve the youth sports experience for the children of Brady. DR. PETE CASTRO Brady, Tex.