A small city in Wisconsin has a reminder for parents who take their children’s Little League games a bit too seriously: Chill out.
The Glendale Little League posted a sign that jokingly informs parents that their child is not being scouted by the Milwaukee Brewers, coaches are volunteers and umpires are human. While the sign has been up for about three years, its message is just now going viral thanks to a local dad, Evan Primakow, who saw the sign during his 7-year-old son’s practice earlier this week and posted a photo of it on Reddit. It has since accrued more than 28,000 up votes and more than 700 comments.
“I thought it was kind of funny,” Primakow told TODAY. His son, Judah, joined the league for the first time this season. “It speaks to one of my concerns as a parent. I’m not a confrontational person, so I’m glad to see the league is doing something to handle parents who might get a little crazy while watching their kids play sports.”
The Glendale Little League board decided a few years ago to shell out about $200 to put up two signs at each of their four baseball fields after complaints about spectator comments began to pile up. Approximately 400 boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 14 play in the league.
John Diedrich, president of the league, recounted that in the pre-sign era, parents would complain to umpires (the majority of whom aren't even adults). “What game are you looking at?” they'd ask, while others tried to subtly intimidate the umpires by leering or clapping when the pitch machine struck a player out.
“Some were bringing an attitude like you might bring to a Major League park. They felt free to comment on whatever they saw loudly — especially if they felt like their child or the child they were there to cheer on was being wronged, and that there was some type of injustice,” said Diedrich, who is also a reporter and assistant editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Little League “is about having fun and not taking things so seriously. That’s what the sign is. It’s joking, but it’s also based in reality.”
Diedrich added that since the signs have gone up, such snarky behavior has appeared to diminish. He said the language for the sign was inspired by a Little League sign in California. Indeed, several similar signs have been spotted across the country. One in Pleasanton, Texas, noted last year, “No college scholarships will be handed out today.”
Of course, parents’ hyper competitiveness over their kids’ sports is nothing new. In fact, bad behavior among parents has become commonplace at children's games, according to Alex Flanagan, a sports broadcaster for NBC Sports and the NFL Network who created the website Ilovetowatchyouplay.com as a resource to help parents navigate the world of kids' sports.
“At most youth sporting events you can find at least one parent screaming at the kids — their own or someone else's — at other parents or at the referees,” said Flanagan, noting her son’s Little League all-star game was canceled last year because the volunteer coaches — all dads — couldn’t get along.
“We seem to have completely lost sight of our role as parents,” Flanagan added. “As we yell demands from the sidelines — like ‘run faster,’ ‘focus,’ ‘try harder’ — we forget that winning or getting our child to have a perfect performance isn't why we signed our kids up to play sports.
"The child is stuck in the middle, not knowing whether they should listen to their own parent or their coach — whether the whole experience is supposed to be fun or a total grind." That can, in effect, lead kids to drop out of sports or get pushed to the point of injury, she said.
Diedrich has some advice to other parents attending their children’s games. “Think before you speak or shout at the field, and sit back and enjoy this time because it goes by quickly and it's a real gift,” he said.