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posted: 2/8/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: A model reminder for youth sports

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

You can almost forgive the tantrums, the untoward gesticulations and the mostly muted foul language from the Brothers Harbaugh on their special night. After all, the Super Bowl is for all the marbles. Many millions of marbles.

But these types of rave-outs -- whether from coaches or players or parents -- have no place on the sidelines of youth sports matches.

They kill the spirit of sport and they teach our children how to be monstrous adults.

The Hoffman Estates Park District has found a gentle way to remind people of what makes for decorous behavior.

Sometimes youth sports bullies -- make no mistake, that's what we're talking about here -- just need a little reminder that Janie doesn't have to get more ice time than Suzie because she has a wicked good slapshot and can single-handedly win the game. Youngsters who are barely old enough to tie their own shoes shouldn't be excoriated if their feet get twisted up and they miss a pass on the soccer field.

Nor should coaches and refs have to suffer the indignity of catcalls and confrontations.

In a story by staff writer Jessica Cilella, Jeff Doschadis, the general manager of Hoffman Estates' ice programs, talked about his method for reinforcing a better experience, which has gone viral since the district hosted a tournament with teams from across the U.S., Canada and beyond where spectators shared photos of his signs that read:

"1. These are kids.

2. This is a game.

3. Parents should cheer for everyone.

4. The referees are human.

5. You and your child do not play for the Blackhawks.

If you don't understand this, please contact the ice dept. at (847) 781-3632. We'd be happy to explain it to you!"

Doschadis admits the sign was inspired by something he saw elsewhere. He said there haven't been chronic sportsmanship problems in Hoffman Estates. He just wanted to provide some visual reminders of how people should comport themselves at a youth sporting event.

They were installed last year as the park district signed off on an anti-bullying policy and sportsmanship pledge for all sports participants.

What a delightfully disarming complement to the new policy.

"I think nowadays that, financially, parents have expectations when it comes to their dollar, and when their kids are participating in any sport, they have a level of expectations regarding playing time, who's coaching, things of that nature," Doschadis said. "It's just that people need to keep things in perspective."

It's important to consider the money you put into your children's sporting endeavors as an investment in their growth, rather than their marketability. The best thing to do with Doschadis' idea is to replicate it -- in other sports and other park districts.

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