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Parents shut out of Y hoops final

February 25, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — The YMCA's youth basketball league will wrap up its season Saturday in a much different fashion than ever before.

At Wells Middle School, where the older kids, mostly in grades 7-8, will play their last games, there will be no parents cheering them on from the stands.

League officials have told parents they will not be allowed inside the gym on Saturday, a move Recreation Director Sue Casine says was done in response to a recent spate of bad behavior during games.

"There was no one incident," Casine said yesterday after leading a Pilates class at the YMCA on Everett Street. "It was a bunch of little things as far as parents yelling at referees or yelling at each other.

"It's a bunch of little things we just don't want to get out of hand."

Casine, who has run the basketball league for about 20 years, said there were no problems earlier this season, which started in December. She said there has been no physical violence at the games.

"It didn't start out that way," she said. "It's really been over the past couple weeks."

Casine said she started hearing from coaches who were upset over parents yelling from the stands, at players, referees and the coaching staff. In some cases, the tension has spilled over onto the floor.

"It goes right down the line," said YMCA Executive Director Ed Keefe of the behavior in the stands. "It gets kids all fired up. Some of the kids reacted inappropriately. An atmosphere can just really go right on down the line. These are good kids, but they're kids. The older they get, the more competitive they get."

Said Casine: "It's very minor with the players. I think it's mostly in the stands and I think it comes from the stands."

Once the decision was made not to allow parents to attend the older kids' games, Casine said memos were handed out at practice and she spoke with coaches and told them to contact parents.

"I've talked to many parents, too," she said. "They're upset, but once they understand the reason behind our decision, every parent I've talked to has been on board with it."

"Mind you," said Casine, "I don't mean all parents. It's just a few. It's unfortunate that other parents are affected by this, but it's a community thing and everyone needs to understand what this league is all about."

All parents, she noted, have been told they are still welcome to attend the season-ending pizza and soda party after Saturday's games, which will be held at both Wells and the YMCA. The younger kids play at the latter site.

Keefe said this was the first time in the history of the basketball league that anyone has been told not to attend a game.

"The league is, number one, for kids to have fun," said Keefe. "Number two, it's for them to learn sportsmanship. We don't keep scores. We don't keep win/loss records. This a fun youth league. At the end of the season, they all get awards."

Both Keefe and Casine said there will be no police presence on Saturday, despite an offer by Police Chief Daniel Charette to provide officers for additional security.

"I hope not," Casine said when asked whether she anticipates any problems.

Charette, reached by telephone yesterday, acknowledged the YMCA's right to take whatever precautions deemed necessary.

"A few parents called me this week and said they were concerned that the YMCA was banning them from the game," the chief said. "The YMCA is a private, nonprofit organization, so it has the right to do what it wants. I offered to put a couple of officers there for the game, but they declined."

Charette said there have been no reports of violence in the league, and that no one has called police in the past.

"I've heard a lot of things across the state, fights between parents at Little League and hockey games," he said. "Parents can get upset, but it hasn't happened here that I know of."

Keefe was reluctant to say parents were being banned from the games, saying, "It's not [a ban]. It's one day. Call it what you want. We just want all the kids to have a positive, fun day to finish their season. That is what the YMCA is all about."

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