“Calm down or else.” That’s the message a Maryland recreation and parks department is sending to unruly parents by way of a new policy intended to crack down on troublemakers.
The new policy comes after police were called and games were canceled during the first two weeks of competition this fall. One incident resulted in several families being banned from the Anne Arundel Youth Football Association, which is comprised of nearly 200 teams and more than 2,000 players.
County recreation and parks director Rick Anthony told the Capital Gazette that the policy seeks to crack down on unsportsmanlike behavior.
“It’s basically zero tolerance,” Anthony said. “Any verbal or threatening actions, and games will be canceled. We are trying to take the initiative as best we can. This is not going to continue.”
Lt. Ryan Frashure, a spokesperson for the county police department, said that police would provide increased presence at youth games to help curb the problems. Frashure said officers would be assigned to games, and others would patrol ball fields as their schedules allow.
“We all want the kids to be safe,” Frashure told the paper. “We don’t think it’s a waste of manpower, but we also think it’s a shame that parents behave like this. We are going to let people know we aren’t going to tolerate misbehavior at youth games.”
Anthony said that he’d devote some of his recreation and parks staff to monitoring social media, looking for trash talk.
“A lot of it starts with trash talk on social media platforms; so we want to be aware of that,” he said.
Under the new policy, game officials will be empowered to postpone games if even a hint of misbehavior is present. Offending teams could also face league repercussions, such as being banned from the playoffs. The hope is that the strict policy will encourage coaches and commissioners to help control the crowd.
Mark Gibson, the league’s vice president, told the paper that a few bad eggs are ruining things for the kids.
“Typically, we don’t have a lot of problems, but the last couple of years we have definitely noticed an increase,” he said. “Some people just can’t seem to control themselves. They come out here ramped up for a 10-year-old’s game like it’s the Ravens.”