Sports dads behaving badly

During my son’s time playing soccer, basketball, and softball with Walnut Creek house leagues, he’s been coached by some really amazing dads, volunteering their time, sharing their love of these sports, and doing what they can to make the experience as positive as possible.

Then again, he’s had a couple of these volunteer dad coaches who took things a bit too seriously and made the kids, and, especially their own sons, miserable.

In each season of each sport, there also was usually one father, or maybe two, who, on the sidelines at practices or at games, likewise took things too seriously.

When I say they took things too seriously, I mean that it was clear that the father was not all that interested in encouraging his son to improve for the boy’s own sense of pride, accomplishment, and pleasure in the sport. The father’s own ego was wrapped up in how his son was playing, or in how his son’s team was playing. Despite etiquette laid down by the Walnut Creek Soccer Club on parent behavior on the sidelines, these dads would still yell at the kids, and not just their own. They would use a very aggrieved tone as they shouted be “aggressive,” “pay attention,” “move there,” or even “kill ’em.” And if a kid missed a shot or lost the ball, these dads would be the first to yell something negative, like “come on!” “why did you do that?”

This happened on teams, starting when the kids were 7, 8, and these teams were not designed to be hyper-competitive. These leagues were designed to get kids out and let them play a sport.

Today I read that things got really bad in a Pleasanton junior football league, on a team of 10, 11 year old boys. This team, the Cowboys, is being coached by a former Oakland Raiders tight end, Jeremy Brigham. Pleasanton police are investigating Brigham’s alleged attack on the assistant coach he recently fired. This coach happens to be Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.
According to the Matier and Ross report in the San Francisco Chronicle, Brigham believed that Haggerty had leaked plays to an opposing team, whom, inexplicably, Brigham’s team just whipped. So, when Haggerty showed up to pick his son up from a practice, Brigham confronted Haggerty, “screaming.” According to Haggerty, Brigham knocked his BlackBerry from his hand, pulled him over a 4-foot-fence and punched him in the back of the head.

Haggerty wound up in a neck brace, police are investigating, and the Pleasanton Junior Football League is conducting its own internal investigation. My view: if guilty, Brigham should get his own ass fired from coaching, and should not be allowed to coach a kids’ sports team again.

The philosophy of the Pleasanton Junior Football League, after all, “is to teach the fundamentals of football in a safe and positive environment. All participants in our league play, regardless of talent level or ability. We strive to instill the ideals of good sportsmanship and respect for authority in all of our players.”

Before firing Haggerty, Brigham would tell Haggerty to “shut up and sit down” after Haggerty complained about the team’s exercise regimen. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brigham had his ego wrapped up in the boys’ performance and was training these boys too hard for what is safe for kids at that age.

What is it about some of these former pro players thinking they have the adult-like patience to coach kids’ sports teams? Remember the big dustup involving former Raiders and 49ers playing Bill Romanowski in 2006? While coaching a Piedmont middle school team, he charged onto a field during a game in Lafayette to confront–not another adult–but a middle schooler from the opposing team, whom he thought was playing dirty.

Oh, and speaking of those Raiders and their off-field conduct, head coach Tom Cable is facing more allegations of violent, bullying behavior, this time against his former wife and girlfriend. Soon after being told he wouldn’t have to face criminal charges of assaulting an assistant coach, Cable now faces accusations, made by the women on ESPN, that he hit them.

7 thoughts on “Sports dads behaving badly

  1. Both mothers and fathers and coaches can be animals when it comes to their children's sports.

    We played baseball a couple of years ago (my youngest child was 4). Many of the coaches and parents were animals. We began doing more 'civilized' sports because we just couldn't take the nutjob coaches and parents.

    Do these nutjob parents think their children are going somewhere with these sports? Only a small minority will receive financial aid and/or admission to college as a result of their sport.

    My goal for sports is to have my children experience a variety of sports, hopefully develop an interest and be good at one or two, so they will have a lifelong enjoyment of that sport.

    We fence, swim, bicycle, run x-country. We don't play with the crazy people.


  2. What I've noticed too, is that the competitiveness in fundraising for sports now will drive many parents to be outright mean and rude.


  3. we just finished playing AYSO soccer in the area. 99.9% of the parents/volounteers/coaches/refs were awesome. there were a few, especially one dad that was coaching that, if my daughter ended up on his team, I would pull her off. he was yelling, screaming at refs, coaches, parents, etc. always complaining, not playing by the rules, ranting, raving, etc. He was a horrible example for the kids and should be banned from coaching
    I, and several parents, complained to the league about him and hopefully they got the message.
    It really puts a bad taste in my mouth to see this kind of behavior. it is a good thing there is so much good in the league that it far outweighs his deploarable behavior


  4. Yelling “come on!” and “why did you do that?” is hardly aggressive behavior. It's a hard world out there and boys need to learn to perform under pressure on their way to becoming men.


  5. 6:41,

    So criticizing and yelling at your son over sports makes him a man? That's pretty pathetic.

    Unless they're very young, most kids will know when they make a mistake. Heck, their peers will likely make all the correction that is necessary. Kids don't need parents and coaches living vicariously through them.


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