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Youth sports pledge: Parents, stay in your seat, leave the ref alone

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(Read caption) Two boys from the Cal Ripken Little League in Heritage Harbor, Fla., stand on the pitcher's mound before the start of an exhibition spring training baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles, March 24, in Florida.

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Here’s some parenting advice I honestly believe can’t be contradicted. It’s aimed at all moms and dads who are about to have their initial experience with youth sports.   

In many cases there will be a pre-season meeting to get everyone acquainted and go over practice schedules and other details. At this gathering there should also be a serious discussion about spectator conduct. You all need to be on the same page about what is, and is not, acceptable behavior. And then everyone should make a collective pledge. Raise your hands or take a voice vote but you must all vow to never, ever hassle any officials during a game.

Yes, this sounds like the oldest broken record in the world. News stories about parents behaving badly at Little League games were common when I was growing up in the 1960s. It’s a tradition nobody is proud to support that stubbornly defies it all efforts to quash it. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying, and I think the best window of opportunity is when families take the first step into organized team competition.

The most important fact everyone has to accept is that the refs and umpires are in charge, period. Sometimes you won’t agree with their decisions, and sometimes they will make bad calls. It’s not a perfect world, right? Mistakes happen and they always will. Just keep in mind that when those moments of consternation occur, sarcastic wisecracks and rhetorical questions like, “What’s up with that?” aren’t going to improve the situation.  

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