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Respect Sports program implemented in Richfield
by John Sherman, Sun Newspapers

Recreation manager sees need to change the culture

Two years ago at a youth hockey game in Massachusetts; one father beat another to death in a fight.  This spring a Little League mom in New York came out onto the field and kicked a boy in the head on the opposing team.  At a youth basketball tournament in St. Paul three years ago an adult fan sucker punched a referee in a restroom.

Frank White, Richfield’s manager of recreation programs and athletics, has followed the disturbing trend in youth sports for years. But unlike many others in the profession, he is doing something to reverse the trend.

White’s program, "Respect Sports," is working in Richfield. It is also being used in other communities, including Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The program has a two-part mission: to raise people’s awareness about the violence and abuse that occur in sports in each community, and, to provide a successful model that challenges community leaders, administrators and parents to examine the values that they are teaching.

How does White approach youth sport leaders?  He uses the direct approach: ‘Can you be a part of the solution?" he asks. "I suggest you can because you are the leaders. You are the ones who can say to those who display negative behavior, "This is not who we are."

Of course, there will be roadblocks. "One of the challenges is that some people don’t realize they’re doing something wrong," said White. "The behavior you see at some youth sports events would not be tolerated in a bank, a restaurant or a movie theater, so why should it be tolerated at a ballgame?"

White said good sportsmanship is really an extension of good citizenship.  He said that adults can teach children the right way to be good sports by being good sports themselves. It’s a simple concept that makes a lot of sense.  "Kids soak up everything they see," said White. "When the people involved in youth programs set a positive example for the kids, everyone wins."

White said he has not had a problem selling his sportsmanship program in Richfield.   "I think people were ready for a change," he said. "It takes everybody in every athletic association to be involved. I’ve talked with people who are out there every night, and they tell me it’s getting better. With positive people involved, it really makes a difference.

White said that the "Respect Sports" information is included in the city’s youth sports brochures.  "We want people to know that we won’t accept negative behavior or abuse of children," said White.

What can be done if an adult persists in that type of behavior?  One thing a supervisor or official can do is "stop the game until that person leaves," said White.  "If we see someone acting that way, we have to challenge them," said White. "I don’t mean we should confront them, just challenge them to take a look at their behavior."

For more information on the Respect Sports program, log on to or call 651-917-7010.


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