On December 8, two referees in Cooper City, Fla., ejected a volunteer youth soccer coach from a game for instructing some of his teenage players in Spanish. The coach refused to heed the refs’ instructions to speak only English.
In his weekly sports blog column, Prof. Abrams criticized the referees’ decision (which the local league rejected within a few days). Noting that U.S. sports teams often roster refugees and other immigrant children, he writes that “[y]outh sports provides unique opportunities for youngsters of various backgrounds and life experiences to participate in mainstream American culture.”
“When children from diverse cultures play clean and follow the rules of the game,” Prof. Abrams continues, “the nation wins by assuring them the opportunity to participate in sports . . . . Forcing children to speak a language that they do not yet speak fluently — or else to risk exclusion from wholesome activities common to American childhood — serves no worthwhile purpose.”
Last month, Prof. Abrams began writing about diversity in youth sports by encouraging enrollment of children with disabilities. “To the maximum extent possible, leagues and teams should permit children with disabilities to participate in sports with other children if their parents approve, their abilities permit, and participation does not change the character of the game or compromise other players’ safety.”
“Disabilities and language barriers surely raise several distinct issues,” Prof. Abrams writes in this week’s column, “but they also share these common themes grounded in mutual respect for individual differences: Children facing either barrier deserve a fair chance to play sports in accordance with their abilities, desires, and willingness to contribute to the team. . . . The impulse to include, rather than exclude, children marks youth sports at its finest in the United States, whose national educational policy vows to ‘leave no child behind.’”