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Poll: Kids Don’t Want Parents Watching Extracurricular Sports

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MIAMI (CBS4) – To watch or not to watch; that’s the question that’s been posed to sports playing children about their parents, and the answer may surprise you.

Nearly half of American kids play extracurricular sports. 7 year-old Elijah Perfetto is one of them.

“I like to hit home runs,” he proudly told CBS4’s Natalia Zea.

While Elijah and many other kids want their parents to cheer them on, a new national survey found many kids between 8 and 14 wish adults would stay away while they play.

More than one-third of the 300 young people polled said they wished adults were not watching their games and practices. They say the adults yell too much, are distracting, make them and teammates nervous, put pressure to play better and win, and just plain old make the kids feel bad.

We’ve all seen video of parents and coaches brawling during youth sports games, and in some cases parents even attacking young players.

Elijah’s dad George Perfetto says he moved his son from his little league team in Hialeah to Doral because of unruly parents.

“I’ve seen the cops get called, I’ve seen parents get ejected out of the game, they’ve got to watch the game from outside the fence,” said Perfetto.

“The problem is widespread,” family therapist Dr. Coral Arvon told Zea. In fact, she said many parents bring their kids to her to help them perform better in sports, without realizing they themselves are the problem.

“It’s not really performance anxiety- it’s anxiety that the parents are creating,” Dr. Arvon said.

That kind of pressure often doesn’t go away when the child turns 18.

Just this week, 19-year-old professional tennis player Bernard Tomic had his father removed from his match at the Sony Ericsson.

“He’s annoying – I know he’s my father – but he’s annoying me,” he told match officials.

So what can you do as a parent to be involved in your child’s sports activities without making it a miserable experience for them?

“If they go to the games and the matches they need to sit back and observe some of the good qualities their kids are having, the good skills and emphasize those instead of being critical,” advises Dr. Arvon.

Perfetto says the key is to lighten up.

“There’s parents out there that they think they’re basically raising a Miami Marlin. I cheer for both teams, it doesn’t matter,” Perfetto said.

His method is working. Elijah still loves baseball and having his dad with him.

Zea asked, “What does (your dad) tell you before games?” A smiling Elijah responded, “To do good and to just have fun.”

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