My hopes for violence-free youth sports fading fast


I hate to start the New Year off on an incredibly sad note, but if you haven’t heard about Richard Nieuwenhuizen it’s important that you do.

He was a 41-year-old married father of three living in Almere, a city on the eastern fringe of Amsterdam, who enjoyed helping out officiating youth soccer games in his community.

And his life was taken from him a few weeks before Christmas thanks to a group of youngsters who apparently were so enraged with an offside call he made during an under-17 game that afterward they decided to attack him, knocking him to the ground and savagely punching and kicking him. By the time bystanders were able to intervene it would turn out to be too late.

So how do you explain to his three children, including his youngest son who played in the game and witnessed the beating, that they are now fatherless because of an offside ruling at a youth soccer game?

A call costs a loving father and husband his life?

How can this be?

The man loved soccer and being around kids. After the attack he didn’t even want to involve the police. Instead, he went home and returned a few hours later to watch another youth game, where he collapsed from his injuries and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

Within hours he had gone into a coma and later died.

There is so much blame to go around here that it sickens me.

Where was the coach of these monsters when this attack was taking place? As the coach of the team he has a responsibility to ensure that they behave appropriately before, during and after games.

And how are kids allowed to behave so horrifically? What are their parents and coaches teaching them about sportsmanship, winning and losing with grace and, even more importantly, basic human decency?

So many questions. So much heartache. So many lives forever altered.

At last count seven boys and one of the dads had been arrested. All eight are facing charges of manslaughter, assault and public violence.

At the field where Nieuwenhuizen collapsed is a banner with a tribute written by one of his sons. In part it reads: “Dear Daddy, senseless it was, for sure. It will never be better.”

A father is dead. Children are behind bars.

And I’m beginning to doubt if violence can ever be erased from youth sports.

Editor’s Note: The seven teenagers and father involved in the beating and death of volunteer linesman, Richard Nieuwenhuizen were convicted of manslaughter on Monday, June 17, 2013. Read more about the development of this case and their sentencing here.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.

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