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Officer shares experience with rowdy parents at youth hockey game

Sgt. Robert Strand hopes his story is a wake up call to all parents planning to cheer on their kids.

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Squad car from the Detroit Lakes police department.
Finn Harrison / WDAY News
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DETROIT LAKES — A Detroit Lakes police officer is sharing what he calls prime examples of parents failing their children.

Out-of-control parents at youth sporting events is a problem that's becoming all too common. It is not exclusive to lakes country, the area, or even the country. Rowdy parents are quickly becoming the new norm at youth sporting events.

Detroit Lake Police Sgt. Robert Strand saw it first hand at the Detroit Lakes Bantam Hockey Tournament championship game Sunday, Jan. 15.

"Sure enough, got called back into the arena because they said that one of the parents started getting into the faces of other parents," Strand said.

A fan not happy with a call on the ice came at the worst time possible.

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"As I'm coming in, get a call for a man not breathing, unknown why. Torn. Obviously this is life or death over here and I have unruly parents in here. Not a fun situation to be in," Strand said.

Strand, strongly upset, spoke to the parents.

"I said, 'Look, I got a guy who is not breathing. I'm not there because I have to be here dealing with you,'" Strand said. "I flat out told them, 'Apparently you forgot how to be a spectators.'"

His words didn't stick.

"I made about four steps. I was like you got to be kidding me, my blood pressure, yeah I was upset, I was like I can't believe I have to do this," Strand said.

Terry Eiter from the Lakes Area Officials Association heard the story and was not surprised.

"Several times during a contest, a player will say, 'Oh my god that was a good call, ignore my dad up there,' so they are aware of what the parents are saying and it's detrimental to them," Eiter said.

He says abuse from parents game after game is making it hard to bring in officials, and it will sooner than later change the future of youth sports.

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"If you want to see chaos, go to a youth tournament. They let new officials, typically who are reffing those games, know how they feel," Eiter said about his experiences with parents while officiating games. "They are abusive towards them and they say, 'Yeah I'm done. I'm not going to take this.'"

Strand hopes his story is a wake up call and for parents to think twice before emotions flare up.

"My generation as parents, we're failing. We're not teaching the lessons we learned from our parents and carrying them on to our children," he said.

Strand was able to eventually respond to the medical emergency. Once the man was breathing again, he returned to the rink and had to escort the officials out of the building.

Strand and Eiter say if this behavior at youth sporting events keeps up, activity fees will likely rise, to pay officials more. They say, after a while, children will lose interest in playing organized sports.

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