Toward the beginning of 2013, Lockport (N.Y.) High School athletic director Patrick Burke was the recipient of the 2013 Empire State Supervisors and Administrators Association's Administrator of the Year Award. He has been praised by his peers for his work ethic and leadership, and for being a role model at the school he loves and within the community he serves. Toward the end of 2013, Burke found himself the recipient of something entirely different: a beating by two intoxicated students he attempted to confront for unruly behavior at a basketball scrimmage.

The 55-year-old administrator suffered a bloody nose, as well as lip and facial cuts. Meanwhile, 67-year-old school monitor George F. Apolito Jr. was also injured, as he suffered cuts inside his lip, on his cheek and hand, and a loose tooth. To add insult to injury, his eyeglasses were broken. The 18-year-old assailant later admitted he had been drinking whiskey with his 16-year-old coconspirator, something not uncommon for him as he admitted to smoking marijuana and drinking daily since he was 13. Meanwhile, the 16-year-old's attorney stated that the boy's mother, sister and cousin had all given up on trying to help the troubled teen.

The teens were sentenced to state prison in March, and the Niagara County judge recommended they be assigned to a bootcamp-style program known as Shock Incarceration, with the hope that this program could do something their families could not, or more accurately, had no interest in doing — actually helping them.

Moving across the country, in February three levels of girls' basketball games were to be held between Stockton, Calif., high schools St. Mary's and host McNair. The varsity game was to be a showcase of two of the top teams in the state. After a narrow five-point loss to 21-4 St. Mary's three weeks earlier, 23-3 McNair was hoping to see its team snap St. Mary's state-record 186-game league winning streak. But it was a game that never happened.

During the freshman game, play had to be stopped when a McNair fan began punching the wife of St. Mary's freshman coach Alex Rivera. St. Mary's varsity coach Tom Gonsalves pulled the junior varsity and varsity teams from the gym rather than subject St. Mary's to further potential confrontations. As a result, St. Mary's forfeited its games at those levels.

So what is the connection between these seemingly unrelated high school incidents? Accountability. We are all bearing witness to the decline of accountability in youth and high school athletics. More often than not, a parent is quick to point the finger at anyone except himself or herself. In my inaugural Tuesday Takedown blog, I challenged the parents focusing on lawsuits over life lessons to lead by example and be role models for their children. This applies to the two incidents referenced in this column, as well.

The decline of high school sportsmanship is spotlighted on page 51, and one of the biggest challenges for high school administrators today is answering this question: How do we get back to education-based athletics and away from the winning-at-all-costs mentality that is so dominant in interscholastic athletics today? One part of that answer is with positive parental involvement. There needs to be a cultural shift away from the modern parent who screams at officials and opposing players and fans. We need parents who are truly invested in their child's wellbeing, parents who are committed to setting the right example for their child, and perhaps most important, parents who practice the lost art of accountability and understand that regardless of circumstance, the buck stops with them.


This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Athletic Business under the headline, "Parental Advisory."

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I remember reading an article, a few years ago, about a group that ran summer camps for kids--without adult involvement. Each day the kids were responsible for dividing themselves up into teams to play games like baseball or softball. Observers were present to record behavior and for safety. What they found was that the kids could organize themselves and settle disputes quite fairly. If one team was way ahead, the kids would stop the game and redistribute the teams--it was no fun to play if both teams weren't competitive. On some days, the kids were given odd pieces of equipment and told to design their own games. Again, the kids did a remarkable job of ensuring fairness, developing rules to play by and making sure that everyone participated.
It seems it's the parents that usually screw things up!
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I would agree and to some degree professional sports are to blame for many of these issues. Too many parents are chasing the dream that their child (boys) will play professionally and make the big salary. As all reasonable people know the chances of playing at the highest college and pro levels diminish greatly at each level. It is not just parents but coaches who for a variety of all the wrong reasons want to win at all costs. The famous NHL player Bobby Orr in his autobiography that came out last fall mentioned that there are too many youth coaches that should not be coaching. You can do the background checks and sports knowledge test but how do determine if somebody emotionally should be a coach?
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It would be much easier to work with coaches, especially at the HS level, if they were ever willing to talk with you, Basically the message around here is "Any questions? No? Then thats the last we'll hear from this season.. See ya!" I've asked to volunteer services many times and I am shunned. Too bad since I could really help the field conditions and use proven methods, with MUCH LESS EFFORT AND COST, to improve the look and playing quality. Oh well...
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The sad part is coaches especially in high profile sports feel the pressure to win and constant comments from parents about their children. There is a tough middle ground of being open and getting badgered. In my opinion amateur sports continue to get worst which are often highlighted in stories like this in AB. It is a sad commentary that many people feel sports are more important then academics.
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Not the badgering type here. Been both coach and umpire and don't want to, as written above, wanna talk about the game. (except where it relates to the field). Ho-hum...