Vernon Little League Coach Resigns After Swearing at Youth Ump

Coach apologized for his "regrettable" outburst at a Little League game Sunday.

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo
A Vernon Little League coach has resigned after getting into a heated verbal argument with a youth umpire after a game in Rockville Sunday.

Chris Johns, coach and manager of the Vernon Fire Department-sponsored team, yelled and swore at the 15-year-old umpire in front of players and parents, according to eyewitnesses.

The incident did not turn physical, though one parent who asked not to be identified described it as “a verbal assault."

"This was the worst sportsmanship I have ever witnessed," the person said.

[Patch is working on getting video footage of the incident.]

In a phone interview Monday, Johns — who has been with Vernon Little League for 5 years and coached in Tolland before that — apologized to the kids and community, calling his actions “regrettable.”

He submitted a letter Monday resigning from the team and the Vernon Little League Board of Directors, effective immediately.

One of the team’s assistant coaches will take over in time for the next game, League President John Eget said Monday.

Eget was not at Sunday’s game in Rockville (he was attending his own grandson’s game at the time) and has heard disparate accounts of what happened. However, he noted that when children are involved, aggressive outbursts and profanity are never acceptable.

While not condoning Johns’ actions, Eget did acknowledge his willingness to accept responsibility.

“He knows he’s responsible for his actions and did the honorable thing,” Eget said. “He has voluntarily accepted the consequences — he did the admirable thing and I give him credit for that.”

Loss of Perspective

Coaches and parents getting into heated arguments at youth sporting events is nothing new.

A similar situation occurred in Oxford in 2012, when a Wilton Little League coach was caught on video screaming at an umpire during a U12 all-star game. A Ridgefield coach was arrested for allegedly punching an umpire in the jaw (the charges were later dropped) after being ejected from a game in Wilton in 2011.

A 2008 study by the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) showed that a combined 76 percent of parents had witnessed a coach arguing with another coach, official or parent at a practice or game and a combined 29 percent had seen physical altercations.

(Responses from 2008 NAYS study: Witness to Verbal Argument: Often – 7 percent, Occasionally – 53 percent, Once – 16 percent, Never – 24 percent; Witness to Physical Confrontation: Often – 1 percent, Occasionally – 12 percent, Once – 16 percent, Never – 71 percent.)

“When adults who are coaching youth sports lose perspective — that it’s a game and it’s for the kids — that’s when unacceptable behaviors come to the forefront and it’s truly a shame,” NAYS Chief Operating Officer John Engh said Monday. “If a child went to school and his parents were fighting with his teachers he would have a miserable experience and wouldn’t want to continue attending, and the same goes for youth sports.”

The NAYS suggests organizations use a four-step process to avoid such incidents, including screening coaching candidates; offering specific training for volunteers; having regular, anonymous evaluations from parents during the season; and cultivating an atmosphere of accountability.

“Training volunteer coaches and conducting background checks on them are important steps… but it doesn’t end there,” Engh said. “Coaches must be evaluated and held accountable for their actions during practices and games.”

“When children are traumatized by witnessing violent confrontations or out of control behavior or offensive language at a game they are going to look elsewhere for something different to be involved in,” he said.

Maureen Brown June 04, 2014 at 03:58 PM
It's so tiring reading about these incidents where the very things that humanize people villifies them. Someone who spent 5yrs. volunteering his time, loses his temper and is forced to resign. As for kids being "traumatized"? What could have been a teaching moment got turned into a reaction that screams "we are intolerant to human imperfections."


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