Parents’ Bad Behavior at School Sports Events Has Gotten Extreme

A brawl among adults attending a boys’ middle school basketball game in Alburgh, Vt., this week led to tragic consequences, when a man involved in the melee later died at a nearby hospital.
An autopsy has yet to determine the cause of the 60-year-old man’s death, according to the Associated Press, which reported the incident. But the tragedy shines a national spotlight on what seems to be a growing problem in youth sports: adult aggression.

Poor behavior by adults was identified as the main culprit behind a mass exodus of approximately 50,000 high school referees between 2018 and 2021, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, an advocacy organization for high school athletics. In a nationwide survey of more than 17,000 referees in 2017 by the National Association of Sports Officials, respondents identified parents as most frequent aggressors during youth sports events.
This escalation of adult aggression provokes questions beyond who will be left to officiate at school-sponsored sporting events. Education Week sought answers to some of those concerns, including why poor behavior among adults at youth sporting events seems so pervasive, what impact it has on students, and how schools are responding.

Why does there seem to be an uptick in adult aggression?
Psychologist Richard Weissbourd describes a combination of factors he believes are responsible for what seems to be the increasing frequency of adult aggression at youth sporting events.

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