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Florida Youth League Turns to Sportsmanship Seminars to Stem Violence Among Adults

Aired July 10, 2000 - 2:19 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Youth leagues around the country are scrambling for ways to stop violence among parents, coaches and referees.

CNN's Miami bureau chief, John Zarrella, reports on a program that seems to be successful.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): In Jupiter, Florida, youth athletic league officials say it's working. Since February, 6,000 parents have taken required sportsmanship seminars, and they've promised their children they'll behave like adults.

JEFF LESLIE, JUPITER-TEQUESTRA ATHLETIC ASSN.: "I will support coaches and officials working with my child."

ZARRELLA: So far, not a single incident of an adult violating the sportsmanship code has been reported. The Jupiter-Tequestra Athletic Association became the first in the nation to make a sportsmanship seminar mandatory. Parents must promise to behave and pay $5 for a half-hour class on how to act at youth league games.

LESLIE: We had to come to the conclusion that if a parent- guardian or guardian does not attend, then we will not let the child participate in our program.

ZARRELLA: That may seem harsh, but league officials say they have little choice. Verbal abuse and sometimes physical altercations were increasing between parents, coaches and referees. In one incident, caught on camera, a coach head-butted a referee, breaking the official's nose and cheekbone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got out a word or two and he, wham!

ZARRELLA: According to the National Youth Sports Alliance, the spread of violence and bad behavior has led 175 youth leagues around the country to begin implementing adult sportsmanship programs. Parents in Jupiter say it's about time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's needed all over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every league has seen their problems. You know, one way or another, the leagues have seen problems with parents yelling at umpires or the umpires and coaches getting into it.

ZARRELLA: Experts say one reason for the increase in violence is parents who see a pot of gold in their child's future. They oftentimes become delusional about their child's ability.

FRED ENGH, NATL. YOUTH SPORTS ALLIANCE: If they've got athletic talent, if they've got a competitive nature, I don't care what the sport is, that athletic talent will rise and they'll be successful athletes. You can't make a child be an all-American player.

ZARRELLA: Increasingly, Engh says, youth sports has become about competition and winning when it should be about having fun.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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