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On The Border: Sports Parent Training In El Paso, Texas

The Problem

El Paso, Texas is a multi-cultural city of 700,000 across the Rio Grande River from Juarez, Mexico. Like most communities across the United States, large and small, El Paso has experienced problems in youth sports, including out-of-control parents. In 1999, youth sports violence in El Paso escalated. At city-sponsored football games, incidents of violence included parents:

  • Pulling knives on and threatening other adults
  • Using sideline equipment to attack parents of players on the opposing team
  • Engaging in fist fights with other parents 
  • Physically and verbally abusing children on the sidelines

The Solution

Paula Powell, Sports Operations Supervisor for the City of El Paso, had had enough. As a member of the National Association for Youth Sports, she decided to use the NAYS parent education program as the foundation for establishing a youth sport parent education program in El Paso. At the same time, Dr. Keith Wilson was making the case in "Performance Talk," his weekly newspaper column in the El Paso Times, that towns and municipalities needed to do whatever it took to stop parental misconduct and violence at youth sports contests. After reading Dr. Wilson's columns, Powell invited him to join her in an effort to change the face of youth sports in El Paso in the fall of 2000. Together, they hoped to develop a program that would:

  • Reduce or eliminate violence, negative talking and taunting on sidelines;
  • Improve communication between coaches, officials, parents and children; and 
  • Put fun and learning back into youth sports.

In developing the program that would become known as "Youth Sports 2000," Powell and Dr. Wilson agreed that training would have to be:

  • Mandatory. In order for a child to participate in city sponsored youth sports, at least one parent would have to attend training;
  • Comprehensive. The training sessions would need to last 3-4 hours to cover the subject;
  • Flexible. To accommodate parents' schedules, training sessions would need to be provided on both weekend mornings and weekday evenings;
  • Multi-Lingual. For monolingual Spanish speaking parents, Spanish translation would need to be provided;
  • Videotaped. A videotape of the presentation would need to be available so parents unable, or initially unwilling, to attend a live session could still receive training in order for their child to play.

Performance Parenting: An Introduction

As the keynote speaker, Dr. Wilson began the formal program by identifying the kind of problem behaviors parents exhibit on the sideline and offering some solutions. The aim of the presentation was to help parents understand how they can create a sideline experience that is not only enjoyable but actually improves their children's athletic performance.

Dr. Wilson introduced the parents to "performance parenting," a concept he has developed based on the belief that the majority of parents know what to do on the sidelines, but lose their ability to conform their actions to that knowledge because they get caught in the "intensity web".

Dr. Wilson then taught parents techniques to help them control their intensity and avoid tunnel vision. Dr. Wilson concluded his presentation by reminding parents to remember the values participating in youth sports teaches. When parents are value-focused, they have a good reason to keep the sideline a healthy and safe place.

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