Nutley demands parents behave like good sports
No smoking, fighting or swearing allowed
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
BY KASI ADDISON
The Nutley Parks and Recreation Department has had enough.
No longer will officials look the other way when parents disrupt football games by yelling out profanities in the heat of the moment. No longer will spectators be allowed to smoke or use tobacco while watching youngsters scramble around for a ball.
Starting with the winter sports season, if parents don't behave at games, they may not be allowed to watch their kids play.
In response to recent incidents of parental misconduct at youth events, the department is requiring every parent who enrolls a child in a town-sponsored sports program to sign an athletic code of conduct that prohibits everything from heckling to fighting.
Coaches, officials and volunteers all must sign the agreement to participate. If parents refuse, their child can't play.
The code will help emphasize to parents that unsportsmanlike conduct won't be tolerated, said Thomas Pandolfi, superintendent of parks and recreation and occasional referee.
"If you are going to be involved with kids, you will behave in an appropriate manner both on and off the field," he said.
A brawl at Franklin Middle School earlier this year emphasized the need for the policy, Pandolfi said. It began after a coach and a cheerleader's parent got into an argument at a Saturday afternoon football game. The argument spilled over to a church festival later that night and erupted at the school Monday afternoon when the two sides exchanged blows.
Pandolfi said he was looking into ways to discourage unsportsmanlike behavior well before the school fight.
Last summer, he attended a Rutgers University-sponsored course that teaches parents how to interact with their children at sporting events.
He in turn used what he learned during the class to craft the agreement that asks parents to practice common sense and not "engage in any behavior which would endanger the health, safety or well-being" of anyone attending or participating in an event.
Penalties for breaking the code include a verbal warning, ejection from town facilities and multiple season suspensions, Pandolfi said.
"Our plan is to ban a parent from specific programs if they get out of line," he said. "We are moving in a direction to protect the kids as best we can. If they don't behave, parents don't participate."
The policy went into effect with the basketball and wrestling seasons, which began Saturday.
Kasi Addison covers Nutley, Bloomfield and Belleville. She can be reached at (973) 392-4154 or kaddi firstname.lastname@example.org.