Weapons and drugs not welcome: how pushy parents ruined US youth sports

Youth participation in sports in America is down, and the behaviour of parents on the sidelines does little to arrest that slump

The first widely-documented account of parental violence at a children’s sports game in the US came in a 1975 Sports Illustrated article. It detailed a football game in Kissimmee, Florida, where: “A mob of adults attacked four coaches of a winning team of 12-year-olds with clubs and pipes, sending one coach to the hospital. A cry from the crowd, ‘He’s dead!’ apparently satisfied the mob and it withdrew just before the police arrived. The coach was not dead, only unconscious for four hours.”

Then in 2000, someone was actually killed. Michael Costin, a 40-year-old father of four, was on a rink supervising a kid’s hockey game in Reading, Massachusetts. Costin was apparently encouraging his sons’ team to hit, check, and slash their opponents, something that didn’t go down well with other parents.

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