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

Empowering Parents To Report Child Abuse

Next, the Child Crisis Center of El Paso made a presentation on child abuse, including a discussion of two documented cases of child abuse occurring on the sidelines of youth football games in El Paso in 1999. This portion of the program was designed to help parents refocus on positive parenting skills. When parents recognize that positive skills work with their children they are less likely to react abusively.

The other positive aspect of this presentation is that it empowered parents to get involved if they see abusive behavior taking place on the sidelines by reporting the incident to the appropriate authorities.

Let's Go To The Videotape

To provide another perspective on the challenges faced by El Paso parents at youth sports contests, the El Paso Parks and Recreation Department played a 30-minute training videotape created by the Parents Association for Youth Sports (PAYS) an organization under the NAYS umbrella working to improve youth sports, including parents' behavior at sporting events.

Educating Parents On The Rules Of The Game

All too often, a parent verbally abuses an official based on his or her disagreement with a particular ruling on the field. Many times, the parent's rage is based on a misunderstanding of the rules and a failure to realize that the rules that apply in youth contests are often not the same as apply during college or professional games.

The Program

Dr. Wilson and Paul Powell recognized that getting any parent to pay attention over the course of three and one-half hours, much less a parent angry at being forced to participate in the first place, would be a challenge. The program they developed was therefore broken up into a series of short presentations using a variety of different media.

Registration: Setting The Stage

As parents registered, they were shown videotapes of city football games, including footage taken by a local television station showing parents, undeterred by the fact that the TV cameras were filming, verbally abusing players, officials and coaches at a 1999 game. Powell used stories and artwork by children embarrassed by their parents' behavior to drive home the message that children want their parents to behave better at sports contests.

Recognizing this area of conflict, an important part of Youth Sports 2000 was to review the youth rules of the particular sport. To encourage audience participation, representatives from each team in attendance were asked to present the rules and answer questions from parents. This not only gave parents a chance to learn the rules, but also to see how well the coaches knew them.

Signing A Pledge Of Good Behavior

At the conclusion of the training session, all participants were required to sign a parental agreement pledging that they would conform their behavior to the PAYS Code of Ethics.The signed forms were then forwarded to PAYS, which then sends parents quarterly newsletters containing insights and tips designed to help them improve their behavior at their children's sporting events.

Organization Is The Key

Part of the reason for the success of Youth Sports 2001 is due to the fact that it is sponsored and supported by the City of El Paso. The Parks and Recreation Department has budgeted the additional resources to enforce the program. Organization is the key to its success. For the fall football season, over 2700 parents received training. Each participant is registered and cross-referenced to the team on which their child plays.

Once coaches realized the city was serious and had the organization and resources to enforce the training requirement, they made sure the parents of their players attended. Before the first game, the rosters were checked against the list of participants who completed the training. Those few children whose parents had failed to attend the training were not allowed to play in the first game. So their children could play the rest of the season, parents were given a chance to receive training by reviewing a videotape of the training session.

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