DEAR ABBY: Youth sporting events are supposed to be fun. Unfortunately, many parents and fans of amateur sports don't realize that their actions, whether verbal or nonverbal, have a lasting, emotional effect on children.
The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) is aware of the harmful effects of emotional abuse on children in sports and has come up with a Code of Conduct. It is available on our Web site: www.nyssf.org. Abby, would you please print it so every parent and coach in the country will see it? -- MICHELLE KLEIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NYSSF
DEAR MICHELLE: I'm pleased to share your Code of Conduct with my readers. Speaking as someone who's old enough to remember when youth sports were supposed to be fun for the kids instead of emotional outlets for their parents, I hope the code will be taken to heart. Read on:
CODE OF CONDUCT FOR CHILDREN'S SPORTING EVENTS
(1) I will not force my child to participate in sports.
(2) I will remember that children participate to have fun, and that the game is for youth, not adults.
(3) I will inform the coach of any physical disability or ailment that may affect the safety of my child or the safety of others.
(4) I will learn the rules of the game and the policies of the league.
(5) I (and my guests) will be positive role models for my child, and encourage sportsmanship by showing respect and courtesy -- and by demonstrating positive support for all players, coaches, officials and spectators at every game, practice or other sporting event.
(6) I (and my guests) will not engage in any unsportsmanlike conduct with any official, coach, player or parent, such as booing and taunting, refusing to shake hands, or using profane language or gestures.
(7) I will not encourage any behaviors or practices that would endanger the health and well-being of the athletes.
(8) I will teach my child to play by the rules and to resolve conflicts without resorting to hostility or violence.
(9) I will demand that my child treat other players, coaches, officials and spectators with respect regardless of race, creed, color, sex or ability.
(10) I will teach my child that doing one's best is more important than winning, so that my child will never feel defeated by the outcome of a game or his/her performance.
(11) I will praise my child for competing fairly and trying hard, and make my child feel like a winner every time.
(12) I will never ridicule or yell at my child or other participant for making a mistake or losing a competition.
(13) I will emphasize skill development and practices, and how they benefit my child, over winning. I will also de-emphasize games and competition in the lower age groups.
(14) I will promote the emotional and physical well-being of the athletes ahead of any personal desire I may have for my child to win.
(15) I will respect the officials and their authority during games and will never question, discuss or confront coaches at the game field, and will take time to speak with coaches at an agreed-upon time and place.
(16) I will demand a sports environment for my child that is free from drugs, tobacco and alcohol, and I will refrain from their use at all sports events.
(17) I will refrain from coaching my child or other players during games and practices unless I am an official coach.