Ward: Out-of-control parents scoring no points
Jeff Ward email@example.com September 16, 2012 7:22PM
Updated: October 18, 2012 6:09AM
The second I read about South Elgin High School football coach Dale Schabert allegedly being attacked by an enraged parent, I knew the nightmares would start up again. And sure enough, here I am writing this at 5:30 in the morning.
Ironically, the day before this sad incident, another former Tri-Cities Soccer Association coach and I were discussing our parental experiences. I told him I was surprised this kind of thing didn’t happen more often.
The only thing that saved me from a similar fate was the two alert TCSA employees who intercepted the irate parents making a beeline for me on the practice field. That lunatic mother hit one of them instead.
U46 Safety Officer John Heiderscheidt said James Slobodnik, 52, of Bartlett, approached an assistant coach before turning his ire on Schabert right before their Sept. 8 varsity game versus Neuqua Valley.
“He continued yelling obscenities, vulgarities, got very, very close to the face of the head football coach …, and the football coach was trying to de-escalate the situation and not engage in yelling,” Heiderscheidt said. “The man continued, pushed the football coach. The football coach stepped back and tried to move around the man, and that’s when he was hit in the chest.”
Because it involved an on-duty school employee, Slobodnik was charged with aggravated battery, a Class 3 felony that carries up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Slobodnik turned himself later day and was held overnight in the Kane County Jail until posting 10 percent of the $10,000 bail Sunday morning, police said. He’s due to appear before Judge Clint Hull on Sept. 28.
According to unconfirmed reports, Slobodnik was upset over a two-game suspension levied against his son for violating team rules.
But as appalling as this incident seems when reading about it, until you’ve assumed the youth coach mantle, you have no idea just how bad it really is.
In addition to the incident I already described, another one of my parents, upset over a blowout tournament loss, proceeded to shout at me in front of the entire team. His major contention was that I let the boys (seventh-graders) talk about girls when they should be talking about soccer.
I had to ban him from all practices and games.
Then there was the team out of Huntley that left me no choice but to enlist the assistance of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office to assure my parents’ and players’ safety at an away game.
That absurd situation started when two of their mothers verbally accosted one of my fathers at a home game. Thankfully, that’s all it was, but we’ve just seen how these things can escalate. Not to be outdone, their coach also came after me, forcing the referee to intervene.
And if it isn’t a physical attack, it’s a damn the torpedoes full speed parental assault on your character.
Not only is that other ex-coach a nine year coaching veteran, but he’s one of the most soft-spoken, polite and truly Christian men I’ve ever met. But that didn’t stop one bizarre parent from enlisting others to so relentlessly pound him that, with no real support from the TCSA, he finally walked away.
So what do we do about this out-of-control youth sport parent phenomenon?
The solution starts with letting club sports die the death it so richly deserves because it sets up the utterly unrealistic expectations that make nutty parents even nuttier. They feel that since they’ve paid thousands of dollars to turn their kid into a superstar, they’re automatically entitled to a starting spot, but there are only so many positions on a high school soccer team.
These clubs are so terrified of losing money, they refuse to rein in parents who start to believe that belligerence is acceptable. (The TCSA did absolutely nothing about the parent who hit their employee.)
Middle school children shouldn’t be playing one sport — year-round — to the exclusion all other activities anyway.
Although a child shouldn’t have to suffer the sins of a parent, all these volatile parents care about is playing time. But if the child is removed from the team, the next parent will think twice before they assault a coach.
The bottom line is this. I’m convinced if we don’t send a serious message right now, eventually some poor Fox Valley youth sports coach is going to end up dead.
You can reach Jeff at