The biggest issue facing youth sports

Little Cardi Crazy Meme

The parents are fighting the kids, coaches, referees and other parents. Beyond scarce resources and injury risks while playing, the biggest threat to youth sports is parental violence. No one is going to allow their child to play on a team or in a league where they aren’t safe.

The time for being diplomatic about it is over. Adults need to set a better example and stop the violence. If we can’t, then our kids won’t play. It’s that simple…

Brawl between players and referees shows lack of home training

A massive brawl broke out Sunday between an AAU team and the referees at the end of a tournament in Georgia. Here, unfortunately, is a clip from the melee:

To make it plain, the team on the floor, the R.A.W. Athletics team from Chicago, lacks what my mother would call “home training.” For the uninitiated, home training is the type of social instruction parents provide young people; teaching them how to respect others and themselves.

Home training includes the usage of the words sir and ma’am. We were taught to never raise our voices to an adult, much less our fists. If there was a problem with a coach, teacher, referee or other authority figure, our parents told us to bring it to them and they would handle the issue.

My mom once told me, “Son, you could be 100% right and the adult could be as wrong as two left shoes, but you’re a child. And a child needs to stay in a child’s place.” This line of thinking may seem archaic, but I was a teenager in the 90’s, so it wasn’t that long ago.

What our parents taught us was a precursor to knowing your role. Kids are not adults and should never take on the adult role, in high pressure situations or otherwise. The kids on the R.A.W. team were losing the game and they were frustrated. Instead of clenching their jaws and huffing and puffing to themselves as a lot of kids would do, they stepped out of their role.

In the video, you may have noticed two kids in darker uniforms standing beyond half court. They disappeared from view as the situation deteriorated. Those were kids from the opposing team. Their coach pulled them from the floor and got them away from the fight.

The R.A.W. kids showed they don’t know how to handle a loss, don’t know how to respect adults and don’t care what others think of them or their community. This has to change. Kids who can’t be controlled by their parents and coaches often end up controlled by the criminal justice system.

Leagues of all types are having problems finding referees. Due to the behavior of the kids, parents and coaches, fewer and fewer people want to be refs because of the abuse they take.

This is on us as adults. We have to stop saying the refs are cheating us when we don’t get a call. Even if the official missed the call, what we’re saying aloud is other adults are intentionally trying to cheat kids. Young people take what we say as the gospel truth.

They hear every word we say about the refs and what we wish we could do to the refs. We have to stop. We have to give our kids the home training that was given to us. If not, there won’t be any games. And it won’t be because of concussions, lack of facilities or equipment. It’ll be because kids, parents and coaches don’t know how to act.


Can civility thrive in the midst of chaos?

“The idea of America is in constant conflict with the reality of America.” – D.L. Hughley

Civility was trending on Twitter Monday night. After clicking through the hashtag, I was inspired to write the following tweet:

Civility is one of the core principles of sportsmanship – right along with integrity, respect and fair play. Civility, or the lack thereof, has become political fodder for reasons I won’t get into on this page. Google it if you have the time (or patience).

Truth be told, civility has been lacking in America for about 242 years give or take. We romanticize about days gone by when people were nicer to each other while leaving out chattel slavery, the Trail of Tears, the Tuskegee Experiment, Japanese internment camps, the 3/5 Compromise, Black Codes, Jim Crow, Redlining, the Vietnam War and dozens of other examples when Americans could have been nicer and more polite to others.

In sports, we pine for the days when football players used to hand the ball to the referee after scoring a touchdown instead of doing all kinds of wild dances and routines. Yet, the only person we can ever think of doing that consistently is Barry Sanders. On the other hand, Terrell Owens’ antics are legendary and were shown over and over again on highlight shows.

Rob Gronkowski spikes the ball so hard, one may eventually explode. And that’s what we do in the larger society. It’s not enough to win. We have to spike the football. We have to rub the other guy or girl’s face in it and they have to be nice about it. They have to accept it. They have to be good sports about it.

That’s not how sportsmanship nor civility works. How you treat others should be divorced of contest outcomes. Treat people like human beings regardless of what the scoreboard reads.

How did we get here, though? Apathy is how. Too many people don’t care and/or gave up and left the extremists in place. America has 230 million eligible voters. In 2016, 100 million people did not exercise the franchise. But what does that have to do with anything?

I challenge you do no nothing to 40% of your house for the next four years. I mean nothing. Don’t clean or clutter it. Don’t even go in it. Go back in after four years and see what that section of your house looks like. Inhale what it smells like. There’s a good chance whatever’s taken root in the neglected section of the place has spread elsewhere.

Sports has been taken over by extremist elements as well. Parents who released their kids to the game and told them to be home by the time the streetlights come on have been replaced by ex-service members who punch kids. There are more adults making a living in youth sports than ever, but 70% of kids quit sports by age 13. These trends have to change.

Civility has two meanings. The first, which is mostly discussed here, focuses on being polite and courteous to others. The second definition refers to the civic duties of a citizen. Greater civility means being nicer and being more engaged. More people need to vote, coach youth teams, attend community meetings, and generally care what happens to others.

Civility is not a weapon you swing at people when you want them to heel. It’s a tool used to help build others up.

Baseball player delays team celebration to console a friend

Some sportsmanship stories need an explanation. Others just need you to watch, listen and share with a friend. This is one of the others…

25-year-old man arrested for posing as a 17-year-old high school student

Sidney Bouvier Gilstrap-Portley was arrested last week on a charge of tamering with government records. The 25-year-old had been impersonating a 17-year-old student at a Dallas area high school. Watch the story below.

The Dallas Independent School District (DISD) relaxed its proof-of-residency requirements in order to take in students displaced by Hurricane Harvey. The idea was to help students who had lost everything, not greedy adults who wanted a second chance at glory, but that’s exactly what police say Gilstrap-Portley was trying to do. Under the alias Rashun Richardson, he was named his district’s offensive player of the year and lead Hillcrest High to the playoffs.

This is an extreme example, but it shows an adult who doesn’t know when his time has passed. I don’t know what satisfaction there is for an adult to go out and dominate kids. I also don’t know what satisfaction there is for an adult to live vicariously through kids, either.

Sportsmanship Scholarship Class of 2018: Catherine Arnold

Catherine Arnold

The Carl Fricks Sportsmanship Scholarship is presented annually to graduating high school seniors from the St. Louis metro area who embody outstanding sportsmanship.  Administered by the St. Louis Sports Commission Associates – the Sports Commission’s young professionals group – the scholarship recognizes individuals who exemplify honesty, integrity, civility, selflessness, kindness, compassion and class in athletic competition.  Candidates are evaluated strictly on their approach, character and respect for others on the playing field.  Athletic performance (wins and other stats) does not factor in the selection – making the scholarship unique.

The Associates launched the Sportsmanship Scholarship in 2009.  The group raises funds for the program and selects its recipients.  In nine years, the Associates have awarded $92,500 in academic scholarships to 31 college-bound students.  The scholarship program is part of the Sports Commission’s efforts to promote and encourage sportsmanship in the community.

Congratulations the winners of the 2018 Carl Fricks Sportsmanship Scholarship – Catherine Arnold, Imanté Griffin, Madelyn Hubbs, Connor Kingsland, and Mary LaBelle. Help us celebrate sportsmanship by nominating a deserving student who has demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship and character in athletic competition. The submission packet and application for next year’s scholarship will be available in January 2019. For more details, call 314-345-5130 or email


Francis Howell North High School

Catherine Arnold received the top Sportsmanship Scholarship award from the Sports Commission Associates in 2018. The Francis Howell North soccer and volleyball captain will use her $10,000 award to continue her studies at the University of Kansas. Catherine’s selflessness and class were on full display during a soccer game against rival Fort Zumwalt South. A body check from her opponent caused more damage to the Zumwalt South player than it did to Catherine. A clear scoring opportunity presented itself because of the injury to her opponent. However, Catherine could not leave an injured player down. She stopped her dribble, passing up a chance to score, and went to aid the Zumwalt South player who suffered a significant facial injury. Catherine said of the moment, “Without question, her nose was broken, and at that moment, I was no longer a soccer player, I was a human being. I suppose I could have kicked the goal, which would have given our team the lead, but that felt callous and simply wrong. I have never questioned the day I helped an injured human being, not just an opposing player, and I am proud of that moment.”

In addition to that impactful moment, Catherine also put together an outstanding resume of sportsmanship throughout her high school career. Kent Stover, Francis Howell North’s volleyball coach said of Catherine, “She exemplifies the ideal of selflessness both on and off the court by treating team members, other students, staff members and all others with consideration and civility no matter their relationship to her.”