This could make things very interesting. Across much of the country, disciplenary actions against parents and coaches are often handled at the local league level, with state sports associations handling disputes that can’t be resolved. Here in North Carolina, soccer leagues under the USYSA/NCYSA umbrella have to conform to a detailed process, allowing for local resolution of issues, but also allowing for state involvement and appeals. But that’s not the case across all states and sports. You read news items all the time about out of control coaches and parents that leagues try to ignore until it turns into a criminal matter.

Fed up with complaints, Rhode Island is considering the formation of a state council to settle youth sports disputes, with the ability to fine parents, coaches, etc.

A bill pending in Rhode Island would create a seven-member council to settle disputes in youth recreational leagues, with the power to fine parents or others it thinks are in the wrong. Backers say it would create a more systematic way for resolving sports fights that sometimes result in children or parents arbitrarily being removed from organized leagues. While some other state and town governments have tried to enforce good sportsmanship, national experts say no state has ever considered intervening so deeply in sideline squabbles.

Limited to issues of improper behavior by parents and coaches, it could help with leagues that don’t have state or national oversight. But the devil is in the details and unintended consequences. Consider this justification from the author of the bill being considered, State Senator John Tassoni Jr:

Tassoni wrote the legislation after hearing from parents, including the mother of a young girl cut from a football cheerleading squad because her mother argued with a coach. “The board of directors said, ‘You’re out. Take your kid and leave,'” Tassoni said. “Who loses? The child loses because they can’t play sports with their friends.”

WOW! So what he is saying is parents would have the ability to appeal team selection decisions to a state board? Does he have any idea what kind of nightmare scenario that would be for sports leagues? You’d have entire teams held up from competing because a parent of a child who was cut is appealing to this board. Clearly this is not a well thought out idea. What about leagues with established discipline and appeals processes and codes of conduct? Will this board overrule those?

I like the noble intent of providing a structure to encourage good behavior by parents and coaches in leagues with no formal codes of conduct and D&A procedures, but the flip side of being able to second guess league decisions is alarming.

Stay tuned – this could make things very interesting in youth sports.