Two JV high school baseball teams meet up in Yuba City, California for a tournament. It's the sixth inning, the game is tied 3-all and suddenly the dugouts empty and players, coaches and umpires tumble on the infield in a fist flinging brawl that lasts several minutes.
KCRA's headline, "Was JV Baseball Brawl preventable" made my jaw drop. Tsunamis, tornadoes, and earthquakes aren't preventable. All human behavior, at some level, is. The problem is, it takes effort to teach kids to swing the bat, not their fists.
From the moment a child is born, they are looking to the adults around them to teach them how to navigate the world. When a baby cries, they look to an adult to feed them, change them, or pick them up. When a toddler throws a temper tantrum, they look to for their parent's reaction. When a six -year-old pulls another child's hair, they watch to see what will happen next. When a 12-year-old doesn't do their homework, they expect a reaction from their teacher and parent. When a teenager lies about where they went, they hope they get away with it.
When two junior varsity baseball teams play a game, do they still look to the adults to gauge their behavior? In this case, I hope not.
The truth is that as in all these scenarios, the consistent and predictable reaction of adults is how children learn what is right and wrong, what is kind and mean, and what is acceptable and unacceptable. No child comes with a handbook to look up all the ways to handle each behavior that comes along. No one said parenting was easy. However, if the stakes involve raising a happy, kind, and caring human being, isn't it worth doing the job right?
Kids should have learned this in little league, when they are interested in playing the game and not causing a brawl. Parents need to check their ego at the backstop and realize that this is about their kids, not themselves. To say that two umpires are needed to keep behavior under control is like saying a school should have two teachers in a room to make sure everyone is on task. Umpires, like teachers, aren't there to police the children, they are there to problem solve. The coaches should be taking the role of the parent and absolutely insisting on appropriate behavior. But when the coaches are acting like children, what can we expect?
And if a parent needs help, coaches, teachers, and other adult mentors are out there. That's what makes this especially problematic-in this instance, the kids' poor behavior is being encouraged and even rewarded by their coaches.
A one game suspension isn't enough. This is another example of allowing kids to behave inappropriately and suffer no long-term consequences. It is hard to be a parent and make tough decisions and STICK to them. Make the punishment fair, clear, and an appropriate consequence that has an impact and MAYBE it won't happen again. If parents undermine the punishment, however, it means nothing and only serves to be more fuel to the fire, and the next time tensions rise the flame will ignite that much more quickly. Is that really what we want to model for our children?
The answer is, yes, it is preventable. But parents need to step up to the plate.