Nothing spoils youth sports programs quite the way adults do.
Changing the culture of Oregon area youth athletics – specifically overzealous parents and coaches – is one of the top goals of the district’s Youth Sports and Athletics Task Force, comprising district administrators, teachers and residents.
The group is spearheading a major push this year to make athletics in the district more equitable and accessible. Its overall goal, co-chair Krista Flanagan said earlier this year, has been to “ensure youth sports and athletic programs are built upon a foundation of learning and our sports culture is a strong and positive one.”
And one of its first recommendations was finding a way to do handle poor sportsmanship.
Members of the task force updated school board members on recent progress at Monday’s meeting, including working up a logo and slogan to help emphasize the importance of good sportsmanship.
“You can be competitive at the highest level and still be educational,” said school board president Steve Zach, a former OHS athlete who talked about his experiences in youth sports.
“I ran youth baseball for 12 years, and I was a game official and I now do neither,” he said. “I frankly got tired of fighting the culture in both capacities, and it think it is a cultural thing that has to happen.”
Zach told members of the task force that in his experience, youth sports often struggle to “educate parents who have a different philosophy” about the goals of the programs.
“Those who are strong-willed and have the ability by either time or money to dedicate to that can take over a team or sport or a philosophy if you don’t have a solid culture in place,” he said. “And that takes time.”
The group’s “working draft” theme is “It’s Their Game,” to remind parents kids should be the center of attention.
Task force member Tim Erickson said the group has learned there has been a “huge amount of game officials quitting throughout high school sports.” He referred to several OHS baseball games that couldn’t be made up this year because of a lack of officials.
“One of the reasons is they are quitting is coming from the sidelines … from the parents,” he said. “It’s unfair to our kids. We want to get people to understand what it means to be a sport parent, not a screaming parent.”
Erickson said the task force wants to use branding methods like logos and slogans to help build that positive culture. Such reminders can eventually be printed in programs and on signage around playing fields and courts.
“It’s more powerful if it’s in front of you at the game,” he said. “Everybody should understand what that means when they sit in the stands. It’s a consistent message that goes from youth all the way up to high school; something that brands Oregon.”
Zach asked the group to work with OSD athletic director Mike Carr on any items the board might have to budget for later in the year. Carr is currently working on the results of the task force’s survey, sent out earlier this school year, which district superintendent Brian Busler said should be available later this summer.
Board members thanked the task force for their continuing efforts.
“This is just fantastic,” Barb Feeney said, “How ironic we have to be educating our parents in such a direct way, but I love the directness of your messages and the idea it will be in front of parents in a lot of ways and a lot of spaces is great.”