Sideline Freakouts Will Not Be Tolerated

Soccer dads and hockey moms beware: Lose your cool at your kids' games and you might have to pay.

A bill pending in Rhode Island would create a seven-member council to settle disputes in youth recreational leagues, with the power to fine parents or others it thinks are in the wrong.

Backers say it would create a more systematic way for resolving sports fights that sometimes result in children or parents arbitrarily being removed from organized leagues.

While some other state and town governments have tried to enforce good sportsmanship, national experts say no state has ever considered intervening so deeply in sideline squabbles.

The bill got its first Statehouse hearing Tuesday.

Alan Goldberger, an attorney who consults with the National Association of Sports Officials, thinks the bill is unconstitutional, not to mention impractical.

“I'm kind of stunned,” he said. “I just have never seen anything like it.”

Jeff Southworth, 48, said more regulation is needed to hold league officials accountable. He called police more than three years ago after he said his daughter's soccer coach showed up angry and unwelcome at his family's home. The two clashed over league matters, he said, including whether Southworth could videotape soccer games.

Southworth's daughter quit the team and needed counseling, he said. The family tried, but was unable to get, local or state soccer officials or the city government to intervene.

"Nothing like that should ever happen to any kid," Southworth said. "I just think there are a lot of leagues out there, and it's not just soccer, that need to be brought under control."

The new legislation would provide far more scrutiny. It would require the state's governor to nominate seven volunteers to a panel. The nominees would be subject to Senate approval, just like judges or high-ranking state officials.

Aggrieved coaches, parents or players could file complaints with the council.

New Jersey allows local teams and schools to adopt and enforce codes of conduct for youth sports leagues. More commonly, governments use their position as landlord to regulate sports teams.

Fairfax County, Va., requires that leagues playing in public parks adopt a clear code of conduct with progressive discipline. If a league cannot resolve a dispute itself, county officials hear appeals about whether the disciplinary policy was properly enforced.

In extreme cases, Fairfax County can issue no-trespass orders banning troublesome adults, players or volunteers from its fields.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us