Dealing with Aggressive Patrons at Your Recreation Center
Anything having to do with physical exertion—be it individual or team sports, running or bench pressing—can lead to frustration and sometimes anger. Most athletes participate in their exercise of choice for the payoff of pushing themselves. Sometimes that means hitting a buzzer beater 3-pointer and sometimes that means increasing their deadlift. Either way, if you run a recreation center, you might find yourself face to face with a heated patron. Sometimes you might even find yourself in the middle of an exchange between two players that is quickly descending to a scary level. So what do you do in these situations?
The Angry Parent
If your recreation center hosts youth sports leagues or tournaments, you have seen angry parents. Sadly, these tend to be the most frustrated patrons at most sporting events involving children. The kids usually enjoy themselves, but the parents get more and more irritated on the sidelines.
These outbreaks rarely get aggressive to the point that you have to take action, but you and your staff should take note of them and gauge how they progress. If it seems the parent’s outrage could turn to an abusive atmosphere, you should carefully intervene. Offer them the opportunity to step outside or away from the sidelines for a moment to cool down and reflect on their behavior. Do not try to physically detain the person unless the parent has lost complete control and is physically lashing out.
Competition sometimes spills outside the boundaries of the playing field or court. Players at your recreation center are like all other athletes. They want to win and they get competitive and aggressive in the moment. Most contact sports call for aggressive play, and your staff, unless acting as referees, should not concern themselves with physical play on the field.
If physicality and aggression continues after the whistle or goes beyond the rules of the game, however, your staff should be prepared to act. Find a way to peaceably separate the two players. If you don’t do this in a team sport, the other players might get involved. This can turn an interpersonal conflict into an all out brawl. Give the players time to calm down, have staff on hand that know how to keep a cool head in tense situations, and do not hesitate to get law enforcement involved if the behavior turns violent. Keep your concern focused not one who’s right or wrong in the conflict but on the safety of all of your recreation center members.
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