Archived Story

Where is sportsmanship?

Published 9:45am Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A grown man allegedly physically assaulted a 13-year old referee following a recent 10-and-under soccer game in Scott County, Ky. The reason? The teenage referee, doing his duty as the main authority on the field, had the audacity to tell the man, who had become belligerent from the stands, to calm down.

The “man” happens to be an off-duty Lexington police officer. Allegedly, he approached the teenager after the game and physically attacked him, forcing bystanders to separate him from the child.

I grew up with the referee’s father. He is justifiably ticked off. He is also handling this situation with much more maturity than I would if a grown “man” assaulted one of my children.

I would love to say this story, which has garnered much attention in the Lexington area, shocks me — but I can’t. The idea of youth sports as a safe haven for children to learn the basics of teamwork and competition is all too often ruined by overly emotional adults.

Most of the time, the most egregious offenders are fathers who live vicariously through their children. Winning is always more important than morals. Losing is unacceptable. And children who live under the same roof as these hotheads suffer due to an unrealistic worry of not being perfect for dear old dad.

I coached baseball teams in the Ironton Little League long before I had children. I did it because I love kids, even though I was technically a kid myself. But by the time I became a father, coaching was off the table. I still loved kids, but I refused to deal with psychotic parents.

As a young man I was cursed and threatened by so-called adults for decisions I made on a baseball diamond as a coach and umpire. Nobody cared that I was volunteering my free time to help keep a league going for their kids.

When I received feedback from parents, it was usually negative (save for a few very special parents such as Jim and Joy Heighton and Rick and Trish Meeks). Many times, parents who never attended practices showed up on game days to vocally second-guess my decisions and complain that their child wasn’t pitching and batting cleanup.

However, I was never physically threatened, aside from a very large woman who repeatedly poked me in the chest while spewing obscenities following a game I umpired. Her son’s team lost that day. I made a bad call that helped the other team win. I was 13. She was in her mid-30s.

We have a mentality that winning is everything. And we’ve passed it along to our kids. Go to any local football game and you’ll hear a barrage of juvenile rants coming from the mouths of adult bodies — mostly the males who live through their kids.

When will we realize our kids can benefit from learning how to lose?

And when will parents stop treating each game or match their child is involved in as the seventh game of the World Series?

The man who allegedly assaulted my friend’s son will likely lose his job as a police officer. He will probably be banned from the soccer field. And his child will suffer disgrace amongst peers for years to come solely because of his last name.

This all happened because a grown man didn’t like the decisions of a 13-year-old official in a game that carried zero future implications in a 10-and-under league.

Sadly, many of us, without realizing it, are just like this guy.


Billy Bruce is a freelance writer who lives in Pedro. He can be contacted at












  • Poor Richard

    The news stations have been reporting on a lot of this bad behavior lately. Maybe the solution is to do what the schools with the smartest kids in the world do — eliminate sports from the schools and focus on education! Gee, what a novel concept.

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  • mickakers

    Billy Bruce; A perceptive and thought provoking article, thank you. In my past experience, I found the Ladies (I use that term loosely) more guilty of childish behavior than the men. If you see or talk to Jim and Joy Heighton tell them I said, Hey! (that’s southern for hello).

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