June | Letter from the President

July 01, 2018, 12:48 p.m. (ET)

Hear from USA Softball President John Gouveia in his monthly Letters from the President, featured in every issue of The Inside Pitch newsletter.

I was trying to come up with a topic for this issue and sadly, the topic smacked me right in the face. Just like some adults did to each other at a USA Softball event that took place recently in Tennessee. 


Apparently a verbal confrontation broke out between parents of opposing teams, and then someone pushed someone else down an embankment. That’s when the fisticuffs began. If you want to see sad and pathetic, find it on YouTube, and watch adults behaving badly. This is at a TWELVE and UNDER event, and you can see some of the players trying to help break things up. One player appears to be in tears. Can you blame her? What is happening out there?  This is not an attack on the folks in Tennessee, who organized the event, or on fans and parents from North Carolina, where the two teams happened to be from, because this kind of behavior is becoming more and more common all over - and not just in softball. This particular event made the national news and is not how we want to see our sport portrayed. Sadly, this is becoming all too common at many youth sports events. Don’t believe me? Go back to YouTube and enter “fighting at youth sports event” and take a look. In almost every instance it’s not the kids fighting, but the adults. We are failing our kids and it has to stop. 


Bad behavior is not just limited to on the field. Here are a couple of examples of emails that I’ve recently received. This person was not pleased with having to do SafeSport as part of his ACE coaching education:


“It is an insult to all the many years I have coached..well over 20 years, at all levels too... I understand first aid, CPR, heatstroke...your course is for rookies....improve it for coaching, do not let woman and those who are clueless to coaching and teaching kids, running these videos and test....and give credit for those like me, who life is all about coaching and teaching softball”.


I left his words as is, including the bad grammar and spelling. Much as I’d like to give him credit for this email and tell everyone his name, I’ll spare him the embarrassment. 


Here’s another from someone who was not pleased with how we handled a team not being able to play their first game in an upcoming tournament. I edited this one a little because it mentions specific teams and again I want to protect the identity of those who unwittingly seek to embarrass themselves:


“What are you and your staff doing with the bracket? If they can't make the 11 a.m. start or has dropped out, why not switch the other game with theirs? Both games 11 a.m. Now they win 1, yes 1 game, and it's on to Sunday unbeaten. While EVERY other team needs to win at least twice. How fair is that? Right the wrong. I believe you are not trying to cheat, but you and your staff aren't very bright. Switch both games...EASY FIX!!! Why give one team that big of an advantage over every other team? P.S. Don't give me they are technically winning twice nonsense. P.S.S Right now your staff and you look bad, like these duties are over your head”.


It was signed longtime fastpitch coach and fan. 


My point is not that these, let’s be polite and call them gentlemen, disagreed with what they had to do or with a decision that we made. They are entitled to that. It was the manner they went about it and the blatantly rude and in the first case ignorant comments they made. Was it really necessary? Do they really think that we are going to respond to comments made in that manner in a positive way? These are adults who are throwing out insults and disparaging comments like they are in grade school. Plus, verbal insults can lead to physical confrontation, which is exactly what we saw in Tennessee. When did it become okay to act this way? 


I have been involved with league and tournament administration since the late 70’s and I have to say that I believe this kind of behavior has never been worse than it is now. Thankfully, there are still a lot of people involved in our game and in other sports that are truly there for the kids, but when you see these examples of bad behavior and rudeness it makes you wonder where we’re headed. I hope that those involved in creating that ugly mess in Tennessee take a look at that video and realize how much they embarrassed themselves and their kids and stop acting like the 12-year-olds they are supposed to be setting an example for. 


Where are youth sports in this country headed? Right now I think it’s headed in the wrong direction. There are way too many adults trying to make it about them. USA Softball needs to set the example. All of you reading this are part of the USA Softball family. Let’s do our best to make it about the kids again. They seem to be less concerned about the score than us adults. Let’s learn from them. Let’s right the ship.  If you do not already know, SafeSport is a recent initiative designed to raise awareness and create safe and respectful sporting environments, free of abuse and harassment. This type of abhorrent behavior is just one of the reasons SafeSport was created. For more information go to the SafeSport website at safesport.org