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Amateur Athletics Assaults Not an Aberration

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In 16 years of coaching, A&M Consolidated's Steve Huff says he's never seen a parent go over the line.

"There's always parents that are involved or fans that are involved, but I've never seen it to the extent it would be beyond something I would consider normal," said Huff, the school's football offensive coordinator.

Jeffrey Robertson may have gone beyond normal. In Canton Thursday, authorities say he shot the high school's coach, upset over his child being dismissed from athletics. It's another case in a growing list of amateur athletics anger.

"There have been examples of it for the 50 years that I've been associated with sports," said Texas A&M professor Arnold LeUnes, a sports psychology specialist, "but I don't think the examples are near as bad or near as numerous as they are today."

Among the latest notes of violence:

- A fist fight at a Boston youth hockey game left a single father of four dead at the hands of an angry parent rooting for the opposing team.

- After a soccer game in Florida, an angry parent confronted a referee with words and a head butt.

- Parents in Jupiter, Florida now take a pledge and a seminar before the baseball season, telling them to control their anger.

"I think one of the most remarkable things about youth sport is that most parents have no idea how good their dad is," said LeUnes. "They have no idea whether this is a kid with a future in athletics, and so they tend to misevaluate greatly what the potential of their child is, and they put so much hope in them, and a lot of times it's not warranted."

Some youth sports leagues have even gone so far as to institute silent games where the fans can't make a sound, good or bad, while watching their child's team play. According to Dr. LeUnes, parents should know that winning isn't everything, and it's definitely not the only thing.

"People should talk about the positives and always keep that in perspective," LeUnes said. "Work with your kids and talk with your kids about sportsmanship and being properly aggressive."

"I think there's always a certain line any coach would like to have drawn between parent involvement and the actual events that are going on," said Huff.

It's a line drawn without chalk, not painted on hardwood, but the hope has always been that parents and fans stay in-bounds.