New Jersey Little League Finds Solution to Dealing with Aggressive Parents

There’s nothing more annoying than parents who are so confident that they try to correct an official or coach. In every sport you see these parents creating unnecessary drama, which embarrasses and humiliates their children and makes them a laughingstock to other families and kids.

One Little League in New Jersey found a brilliant solution to combat spectators and parents. Deptford Township Little League implemented a new policy this year after the argumentative spectators became so bad that both volunteer umpires quit.

WPVI reports that “Now, league officials are saying if you fight the umpires, you may find yourself having to make the calls.”

Don Bozzuffi, the League’s President, said that disputes over calls and subsequent arguments are typical.

Bozzuffi said to WPVI, “They believe the call was wrong. It always amazes me how they can see the strike better than the umpire who is one foot in front of them.” The arguments have become so heated that the umpires are no longer willing to deal with combative spectators.

Bozzuffi said, “The umpires come here and get abused. They don’t want that.” “So, they’re walking off and quitting.”

According to the new rule, parents or spectators who are argumentative must serve as umpires for three games. Otherwise, they will be banned from the field for an entire year.

Bozzuffi said to CBS News, “I want them to squirm.” “I want them to make that decision, and they might realize it’s harder than it appears.”

Bozzuffi believes the new rule is more of an “enlightenment”, rather than a punishment. Some parents also agree.

Mac Barnes, who is a father and has worked as a referee, explained that it’s natural to ask, “Buddy, if you can do it better, come down here and do so, or don’t comment on the way I do things.”

Unexpected benefits have also been created by the rule change. Bozzuffi reports that five parents have contacted him to inquire about becoming umpires.

The problem of combative parents doesn’t only exist in New Jersey. In 2019, umpires from the San Antonio District 19 Little League sent a letter outlining the challenges they face.

The umpires wrote: “We are learning more about the reasons every day why sports of all kinds have difficulty getting officials or umpires into their programs.” “One of the biggest and most important reasons is sportsmanship.” “Parents are just as important as the players/managers/coaches and they should also show good sportsmanship.”

The umpires quoted a survey conducted by the National Association of Sports Officials in 2019 that revealed:

  • Assailants have assaulted 13% of public officials
  • 47% of people have been in fear for their lives
  • 57% of people have ended fights.
  • 64% of players, managers, parents, or coaches have been ejected
  • 80% of students quit their third year.

According to a NASO survey, “about 40%” of officials think that parents are the biggest problem with sportsmanship and 57% believe that it is getting worse.

The letter continues, “So the next time that you are watching your child or family member play in your local league remember: umpires too are humans. We all make mistakes, but a good referee will do their best to correct them. We know when it’s a close game, we will only make half of the crowd happy. We want to make the right call in the end.”

Bozzuffi, Deptford Township Little League, and the current trends in sportsmanship may be onto something. It might be helpful to make these parents and spectators who are combative put themselves into the shoes of umpires for a few matches. This will help them see that umpires, like parents, are human. Maybe it will lead to a change in the behavior of spectators.