During my time as an athletic director for Racine (Wis.) Unified School District and serving as president of Safe Sport Zone, I've trained thousands of school administrators in afterschool event security, which means I've seen more negative fan behavior at high school athletic events than most people. Anger issues are at the root of this behavior, and studies show that 90 percent of the problems in the stands are caused by adults — specifically, parents of the participating student-athletes. That means that a small yet vocal segment of parents are adversely impacting the interscholastic experience for not only players, coaches and fans, but game officials, as well.
Bob Parker, a 36-year officiating veteran, recently told High School Today, "More than three-fourths of the NASO [National Association of Sports Officials] survey respondents listed poor sportsmanship by parents as the single biggest reason officials quit." The reality is that we are only a few years away from not having enough officials for youth and high school games. Officials aren't the only ones quitting. Coaches are also quitting in greater numbers, citing the irrational demands placed on them by players' parents.
How did this all happen?
To find the answer, we need to take a look inside the minds of those parents who are often engaged in the dysfunctional practice of believing their sons and daughters have what it takes to earn a full college athletics scholarship. As the child progresses from youth sports to middle school sports and eventually high school varsity athletics, the parent's presence becomes larger and manifests itself in many ways, including taunting and bullying in the stands.