Paula Powell was
watching a youth football game when an angry parent suddenly seized a down
marker and struck another parent between the eyes with it. "Kids were
crying," she says of the bloody attack. "I had my kids there, and they
were scared. It was pretty bad." The crime inspired her to create a program
to stop parent misbehavior.
Though such cases are uncommon, they reflect a larger problem familiar in
youth sports: unruly adults, taunting, running up scores, too much emphasis on
winning, too little on winning and losing well.
|Larry Rosen, CEO of the Metropolitan Los Angeles YMCA, makes a point as Paula Powell looks on.|
So on February 10-11, 2002, at the Josephson Institute's "Pursuing
Victory With Honor - A Summit on Youth Sports," 40 leaders from youth
programs like Little League, Pop Warner, AYSO, US Youth Soccer, USA Volleyball,
US Tennis, the Amateur Softball Association and USA Hockey came together to try
to craft solutions. Paula Powell, park and rec operations supervisor in El Paso,
was there too.
They emerged with two major results: 1) the Gold Medal Standards, a common
framework of requirements that all youth programs should meet, and 2) an Action
Plan, a set of practical ways to implement the Gold Medal Standards. (Click
here for a pdf file of the Gold Medal Standards for Amateur Basketball.)
These may have consequences that affect all sport. For the "Summit on
Youth Sports" sought to embed sportsmanship in all children's athletics,
and that's where most people initially encounter it. Individuals who learn to
put honorable behavior first in childhood are more likely to do so as teens and
The Youth Summit was a critical steppingstone in the "Pursuing Victory
With Honor" strategy for improving ethical conduct in sports. It followed
the Arizona Accord of 1999, which laid out principles for sportsmanship, and the
2001 "Pursuing Victory With Honor Men's and Boys' Basketball Summit"
and its Gold Medal Standards for Amateur Basketball, a set of guidelines for implementing
the Accord in that sport.
The delegates met in a room of chandeliers and hardwood columns at the
historic Los Angeles Athletic Club. They sat at a long, narrow U-shaped table
dotted with Diet Cokes and pitchers of ice water, as Michael Josephson moved up
and down the slot, asking questions, taking suggestions, sharpening language,
working toward consensus.
Though the Summit's documents are not yet final, delegates discussed a
variety of consensus measures, including provisions that all youth sports
Develop a "mission and objectives" statement for
staff, volunteers and parents.
Require background checks for adults (volunteers and staff)
who work with youth 14 and under, to be completed before the adults come
into contact with the children.
Provide a safe environment free of physical, emotional or
verbal abuse, and one that is prudent with regard to risks of injuries and
Adopt resolutions to prohibit activities such as fighting,
spectator violence, taunting, verbal abuse by coaches or spectators, running
up the score, and teaching or tolerating illegal tactics that violate the
spirit of rules and tradition of sport.
Develop a strategy for emergency response and forms for
involving local law enforcement and emergency service providers as support.
Provide brief, easy-to-read parent-education materials and
FAQs, which include league rules and objectives, the basic rules of the
game, all participation costs, practice and game schedules and an
explanation of how coaches are selected and trained.
Make codes of conduct available for coaches, officials,
athletes and parents.
Provide and distribute a kit that includes instructions to
coaches and officials, banners and handouts, codes of conduct regulating
pre-game decorum for coaches, officials and players, and a pre-game
In addition, alliance members' sports facilities can require that youth
sports programs set firm standards of safety and sportsmanship, and hire
List of Summit Delegates
- Roger Blake, Assistant Executive Director, Calif. Interscholastic
- Geoffrey Brown, Executive Director, Dwight Patterson Sports Academy
- Jon Butler, Executive Director, Pop Warner Football
- Dennis Campbell, Executive Vice President, Michigan Amateur Hockey
- Julie Cochran, Assistant Executive Director, Illinois Elementary School
- Thomas Crawford, Former Director of Coaching, U.S. Olympic Committee
- John G. Daniel, Associate Executive Director, Girls and Boys Town USA
- Barbara Fiege, Commissioner, Calif. Interscholastic Federation - Los
- Harley Frankel, Executive Director, Inner City Games
- James Gerstenslager, District Administrator, Little League Baseball,
- William Grobe, Ed.D., President, National Association of Secondary School
- Jim Hallihan, Executive Director, Iowa State Games
- Jacqueline Hansen, Director of Coaching Education, Amateur Athletic
- Linda Henry, Junior Olympic Commissioner, Southern Calif. Amateur Softball
- Michael Josephson, J.D., founder, Josephson Institute, CHARACTER
COUNTS!, Pursuing Victory With Honor
- Stephen Keener, President & C.E.O., Little League Baseball, Inc.
- John Kessel, Director, Coaching Education & Grassroots Programs, USA
- Ron Kinnamon, Chairman, CHARACTER COUNTS!
- Shari Young Kuchenbecker, Ph.D., Professor, Loyola Marymount University,
Author of Raising Winners
- Sam Lagana, National Director, Pursuing Victory With Honor, CHARACTER
- John Lansville, Director of Player Development, Southern Calif. Tennis Assn.
- Larry Lemak, M.D., Chairman, National Center for Sports Safety
- Barry Mano, President, National Assn. of Sports Officials
- Sedrick Mitchell, Deputy Director of External Affairs, Calif. State Parks
- Shane Murphy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology, Western
Connecticut State University
- Paula Powell, Sports Operations Supervisor, El Paso Parks and Recreation
- Larry Rosen, President & C.E.O., YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles
- Randy Sapoznik, Executive Director, United States Youth Volleyball League
- Celia Sawyer, Director, Los Angeles Unified School District Youth Services
- David Light Shields, Ph.D., Co-Director, Mendelson Center for Sport,
Character & Culture, University of Notre Dame
- Wendy Smith, Director, Section 14, American Youth Soccer Organization
- James Staunton, Ed.D., Commissioner, Calif. Interscholastic Federation -
- Frances Stronks, Director, Section 1, American Youth Soccer Organization
- Cherie Tucker, National Executive Director, American Youth Soccer
- Joanne Venditto, Recreation Supervisor, Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation
- Robert A. Wilkins, President & C.E.O., YMCA of the East Bay
- Patrick Wilson, Director of Regional Operations, Little League Baseball,
- Jolene Woodhave, Deputy Director, Region IV, United States Youth Soccer
- Judith Young, Ph.D., Executive Director, National Assn. for Sport and
- Jim Zebehazy, Executive Director, Young American Bowling Alliance