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Convention 2010
June 23-26
Marriott City Center,
Salt Lake City

For information:
Garry D. Howard:
E-mail | 414-224-2306

Jack Berninger:
E-mail | 804-741-1565

Workshop materials

Judging 2010
March 6-10
Radisson WorldGate,
Kissimmee, Fla.

For information:
Phil Kaplan:
E-mail | 865-342-6285

Jack Berninger:
E-mail | 804-741-1565

Mandatory dates:
Sunday: April 5
Weekday: Tue., Feb. 24

Over 250,000 circulation
Enterprise story
Fifth place

A father who pushed too far
Athlete son played and obeyed until he could take no more

By BARRY HORN / The Dallas Morning News

First in a series exploring the impact of youth sports.

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS – It was a throwaway line at the end of a chance meeting in a faraway place involving a college football coach, a father and his 13-year-old son.

Youth Sports: Games Parents and Children Play
1. Sports Day kicks off Youth Sports series

2. A father who pushed too far

3. Class by themselves

4. 'One in a million'

5. In sharper focus

6. Changing courses

7. Youth referees cope with abuse, and some with violence

8. Keeping score of ref abuse

9. Reviled by rivals, Hassan Nazari changed the rules in youth soccer

10. A real go-to guy

11. Girl on the rush

12. Scholarship circus

13. Power pact

14. A league with no losers

Just something nice to say to the father of just another kid whom the coach vaguely remembered from a Texas Christian University summer camp five months earlier.

Had the boy not worn a Horned Frogs football cap to lunch that day, the coach would not have struck up the conversation over Christmas vacation in 1991.

"If your boy keeps his head on straight, he's going to have a great future," the coach told the father in parting.

Some fathers might have taken the line as simple positive reinforcement for a skinny eighth-grader before returning to the business of the meal.

Others might have been content to thump their chests for a day or two before returning to reality.

And then there was Bill Butterfield, for whom the coach's words were an epiphany, a Rocky Mountain revelation right there in Brown's Country Store in the tiny Colorado resort town of South Fork.

This father saw it as the first step on his return to athletic glory.

All along, Mr. Butterfield had focused his energies on making a baseball player out of his oldest son, Billy, while ignoring his younger boy. But as hard as Mr. Butterfield tried, that plan hadn't worked.

An epiphany

Now, an alternative stood before him – young Lance.

Lance was fast. He had sure hands. He was tough. He loved to play all sports.

Unlike Billy, he always enjoyed working out.

And Lance, 10 years younger than his brother, was still devoutly obedient.

Maybe it had been prescient for Mr. Butterfield's wife to have named their second son for her favorite football player, Lance Alworth, a Hall of Fame wide receiver.

"Bill had always been very serious with the boys when it came to sports," says Kathy Butterfield, Lance's mother.

"But that meeting, that conversation, triggered something even more in him."

Family friend Wade Parkey, who also witnessed the vacation conversation with the coach, says he tried for hours to convince his best friend that the TCU assistant was simply being polite.

But Mr. Butterfield already had heard all he wanted to hear.

"And after that," Mr. Parkey says, "nothing in Lance's life would ever be the same."

In the remaining 4 ½ years of his life, Bill Butterfield, whose own football playing days ended in high school, did everything in his power to transform Lance into a football star.

He was so obsessed with realizing his dream that he made Earl Woods, Richard Williams and Marv Marinovich, America's poster parents for building children Tiger, Venus, Serena and Todd into athletic superstars, seem like disinterested observers.

Eventually, his obsession cost him his life.

"True, our kids need us to teach them basic skills, determination and how to compete," says Dr. Michael Arambula, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio who would come to know the Butterfield family.

"But they don't need us to fulfill some unfulfilled need of the parent. Bill went ahead and provided the structure and discipline for Lance to excel, but he way overdid it. So many parents overdo it.

"Fortunately, very few go as far as Bill did."

The regimen begins

Almost immediately upon the family's return from Colorado, Mr. Butterfield imposed his own strict training regimen on Lance.

He prescribed the boy's diet.

Huy Nguyen / DMN
Lance Butterfield was released from prison in November 1999, and is now close to graduating from TCU with degrees in accounting and finance.

Mornings, he would provide a fistful of vitamins and supplements for the boy to shovel into his mouth. Evenings, he insisted the boy pour weight-gaining shakes down his throat.

Eventually, Mr. Butterfield began checking the boy's bowel movements to determine whether Lance had eaten any foods he had banned from the boy's diet.

And father fed his son steroids.

Mr. Butterfield concocted his own remedies for injuries without regard to what professional trainers and doctors had to say.

Father isolated his son from friends.

Girls, father decided, were nothing more than distractions.

To ensure that nothing escaped his watchful eyes, father attended every one of his son's high school football practices. To keep up with Lance's schedule, Mr. Butterfield simply stopped going to work at the family-owned mattress business.

After games, when teammates celebrated victories or lamented defeats together, Mr. Butterfield insisted Lance spend hours reviewing his play on homemade videotapes.

To keep close tabs on whatever social life Lance managed to piece together, his father simply got into his red GMC pickup truck or rented a car to shadow him.

"To say that Bill became obsessed with every aspect of Lance's life would be an understatement," Mrs. Butterfield says wearily, after rattling off the laundry list of examples.

"He was intent on living it for Lance."

'The perfect boy'

The skinny kid did indeed grow into an outstanding defensive back at Richland High School. Lance blossomed into a 6-foot-2, 180-pound free safety who also played second base on the baseball team and ran the 400 meters in track.

The boy also brought home A's on his report card, was a "yes sir, no sir" member of a Christian youth group, and was selected to the homecoming court.

Whereas Mr. Butterfield's high school peers in the late 1960s had nicknamed him "Butt" for his hardheaded ways, Lance's friends called their more gentle buddy "Butter."

"Lance was the perfect boy, the kind parents dream of having," Mr. Parkey says.

But it wasn't good enough.

Colleges showed no scholarship interest in Mr. Butterfield's boy.

Maybe that's why soon after Lance's senior football season for the Richland Rebels in 1995, Mr. Butterfield asked his oldest son to cut him a piece of wood to use as a paddle. Billy ignored the request.

"Again, it was one of those things I blew off. I'm sorry I wasn't curious to ask the reasoning behind it," Billy said.

Frequent beatings

Undaunted, Mr. Butterfield bought a pair of paddleball rackets and wrapped them tightly with heavy black duct tape.

Every day after school, father would wale away at Lance's buttocks.

Huy Nguyen / DMN
"I don't know what Bill resented more, having to marry his pregnant girlfriend or having to work for his father," Kathy Butterfield (shown here with son Lance) says of her life 35 years ago.

"This is because you didn't get the ... [expletive] beat out of you enough when you were younger," was Mr. Butterfield's mantra between blows. "You gonna be a mama's boy and cry?"

Lance never shed a tear. Instead, he promised himself he would try harder to please his father.

When Mrs. Butterfield tried to say something or interfere, she was treated to a profanity-laced tirade that often was complemented by a shove or a forearm.

The beatings went on for about a month.

On Dec. 27, 1995, Lance went on yet another morning run mandated by his father.

Not that he wanted to go. He told his father he wasn't feeling well. But his father insisted.

And so the ever-dutiful Lance ran.

Along the way, he stopped and invited a former girlfriend to join him.

The two had broken up on Mr. Butterfield's orders. The relationship, the father was convinced, had hurt Lance's performance on the football field early in his senior season.

Still, ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend ran together for about a mile before she peeled off to return home.

As he rounded the corner, heading home for the final few hundred yards, Lance spotted Mr. Butterfield sitting in the red pickup in the driveway. Lance guessed his father had either already followed him or was about to set out to find his wayward son.

"Seeing him sitting in the driveway triggered so many memories," Lance says.

"I wasn't thinking of sports. I saw my mom being pushed around. ... I saw my older brother and his family who lived a block away avoiding our house. ... I saw my family wasn't a family anymore. ... I saw misery."

Back in the house, Mr. Butterfield told Lance he was going to shower.

While his father headed down the hall to the bathroom, Lance headed in the opposite direction to the kitchen.

As the water began streaming, Lance pulled out of a drawer a .38-caliber revolver the family kept and retreated to the closet in his bedroom.

For a few moments the son just sat there pondering his fate. Lance prayed that his father would not come looking for him armed with another rant before sending him off to another day's work at the family's mattress company.

"I just didn't want to talk to him," Lance says.

But Mr. Butterfield, wrapped only in a towel, walked into Lance's room – an all-too-recognizable mask crossing his face. The eyes were bulging. The familiar frontal vein protruded from his forehead.

As usual, the father had questions. Lance braced himself for another cross-examination.

Why, father wanted to know, was the boy still home and not yet on his way to work?

And what was that the boy appeared to be hiding behind his back?

The son explained he was just waiting to use the shower himself. As for what was behind his back, "nothing," Lance said.

A life forever changed

As the father turned to leave the boy's bedroom, the son brought the .38 around, closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.

The bullet struck the father in the back.

"I'm sorry, Dad," Lance said.

As Mr. Butterfield turned to plead for help, the son closed his eyes once more and fired again.

The second bullet lodged in the father's forehead, forever ending the abuse and replacing one agony with another.

Lance, who never had been in trouble with the law, was thrust into a different hell. Filled with remorse, he plodded through the Texas criminal justice system.

At first, Lance told police there had been an intruder. But it wasn't long before he admitted shooting his father.

Eventually, he would be charged with murder, convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison.

"I don't want people to think what happened is right," Lance says 6 ½ years later, momentarily staring into space while sitting at the kitchen table in his family home, 50 feet from where the gun exploded.

That's how discussions with Lance seem go when the subject turns to his father. He relives scenes.

The tape in his head starts and stops. He dissects every frame.

"Always," he says, "there are a lot of what-ifs."

Athletic addiction

Lance's life might have been hell had he never touched a football or lifted a bat or taken a jump shot. His father might have become consumed with some other aspect of his son's life.

Butterfield family
The Butterfield family, shown in 1991, included (clockwise from top left) siblings Billy, Lance and Sandy and parents Kathy and Bill.

"Lance was a kid taught to follow the rules," says Paul Mones, a Portland, Ore., attorney who specializes in parricide cases and was part of Lance's defense team. "He was a good kid who fulfilled his father's wishes to a T."

Mr. Butterfield's older sister, Dianna Forsythe, says her brother had been a "control freak" since his high school days.

Sports, however, was the natural umbilical cord between father and son.

"Bill had an addiction to making his son a superstar because in his mind he got screwed out of being one himself," says Mr. Parkey, the best friend who had been Bill's classmate since junior high and friend since high school.

Mr. Butterfield had been a standout running back at Carter-Riverside High. When he was banned from playing his senior season, it made headlines in Fort Worth.

Kathy Adams, his cheerleader girlfriend since their sophomore year, was pregnant.

Bill and Kathy did what most kids did under those circumstances in 1967. They got married.

But the rule at Carter-Riverside was unforgiving: Married students could not play varsity sports.

And so Mr. and Mrs. Butterfield transferred to Fort Worth Christian for their senior year. Bill's football career ended at year's end.

After graduation, the new father stayed at the school to help coach football.

College was out of the question.

To support his family, Mr. Butterfield reluctantly went into his father's disposable rag business.

"I don't know what Bill resented more, having to marry his pregnant girlfriend or having to work for his father," Mrs. Butterfield says.

An obsession

In the ensuing years, Mr. Butterfield seemed to derive his greatest joy from teaching Billy how to play sports.

Father taught son baseball, football and basketball and was involved in coaching all of his teams.

When Billy started to play Little League baseball during second grade, his father devised a rigorous daily workout routine around a new swing set.

Then it was on to a nearby park. Father pitched. Son swung. Mother and sister Sandy, who came along three years after Billy, scrambled to collect the balls.

When Billy did something his father didn't like, Mr. Butterfield wouldn't hesitate to throw a ball at his head.

If Billy's team played two games a week, Mr. Butterfield would reserve a field for practice on a third day.

"Baseball," Mrs. Butterfield says, "was our life."

It was about the time that Billy finished elementary school that Mr. Butterfield built a batting cage in the back yard.

Billy was supposed to go to junior high school in Haltom City, but Mr. Butterfield didn't like the coaching situation there, so he transferred him to a school in North Richland Hills.

Billy grew into an all-district second baseman at Richland High School. He went on to play junior college baseball in Colorado. But that was the end of the line.

Butterfield family
Lance, shown with mother Kathy during his senior year in 1995, played defensive back at Richland High School.

When Billy told his father he was placing marriage above baseball, Mr. Butterfield went into a funk.

Billy didn't care. He had been ignoring his father's demands for years.

"My problem is when I was growing up, I put a wall around me and blocked everything out," Billy says. "Consequently, I don't remember a lot of things."

While Billy was ignoring his father, Mr. Butterfield was virtually ignoring Lance, 10 years younger than his brother. He coached him for only one season of baseball. Family stories of Mr. Butterfield's forgetting to pick Lance up at school or leaving him behind were legendary.

"Lance was kind of the odd man out," says Mr. Parkey, the family friend. "Lance didn't get his father's attention until Bill realized that he had lost Billy."

The younger son

Mr. Butterfield was still in a fog when the Butterfields and Parkeys went on their annual Christmas trip to Colorado in 1991. He was still feeling that way when they walked into Brown's Country Store.

Yes, they knew the owner's son coached college football back in Fort Worth. But they had never laid eyes on TCU defensive line coach Scott Brown until that day.

"Bill came alive after meeting the coach," Mr. Parkey says. "He realized he had another chance, his last chance. And he wasn't going to miss out again."

Reinvigorated, Mr. Butterfield converted the garage into a state-of-the-art weight room. He installed floodlights in the yard so darkness could not interfere with his boy's training.

Mr. Butterfield had been taping Billy's and Lance's games for years. Or rather, he had his wife tape the games.

After Colorado, Mr. Butterfield began critiquing Lance's play. When Lance's eighth-grade basketball coaches noticed Mrs. Butterfield taping games, they asked Lance to bring the tapes to school for the team to watch.

One problem: Mr. Butterfield always sat next to his wife. His was the omnipresent voice on the tapes.

"Dad would offer continuous verbal onslaught about me making stupid plays and calling the coach an idiot," Lance recalls. "We'd have to tape over lots of portions. We'd be watching in the locker room and the screen would go blank. I always blamed my mother for being so bad with the video camera. It was all I could think to explain it."

At Lance's football games, Bill and Kathy Butterfield took to sitting by themselves so no one would hear the father's tirades as his silent wife dutifully taped away.

At baseball games, Mr. Butterfield would sit in his truck and watch the game from afar until it was Lance's turn to bat. Then he'd make his way to a spot behind the backstop and scream at his son between pitches.

"Keep your head down!"

"Watch the ball!"

"Keep your shoulders in! Put your weight back!"

After Lance's at-bat, Mr. Butterfield would retreat to the solitude of his truck.

He told his wife he was too nervous to sit with the other parents. He began taking Xanax, prescribed to combat anxiety. Those complemented the painkiller Vicodin that Mr. Butterfield had begun taking for kidney stones and kept popping after the stones passed, he told his wife, for other frequent aches and pains.

When friends invited Lance out, he was allowed to go after hitting a prescribed number of pitches in the backyard batting cage. Mr. Butterfield had invested in two machines: one to throw fastballs and one for curves.

"I never said I didn't want to hit," Lance says, that faraway look returning. "I didn't want to make him angry. I learned early what would make him mad, and I tried not to cross that line."

Often, when Lance made a mistake or angered Mr. Butterfield, father simply aimed the fastball machine at his head.

Lance learned to quickly get out of the way.

High school pressure

It was in ninth grade that Mr. Butterfield began attending all of Lance's practices.

Butterfield family
Bill Butterfield (top left) coached son Lance (bottom right) and his baseball team in 1987, when Lance was 10.

At home, father recounted in detail every mistake he thought the son had made and suggested how he might improve.

Lance's parents raced home after every football game to get the tape in the VCR before their son arrived. Father and son would often study the tape – start, stop, rewind, start, stop, rewind – until 2 a.m.

In his junior year, Lance hurt his rotator cuff trying to make a tackle during Richland's playoff game against Lewisville. He was afraid to tell his father, who mistrusted trainers and doctors, preferring his own home remedies.

Once Mr. Butterfield took Lance to Dr. Don Johnston, an orthopedist in Euless, to examine a broken bone in the boy's foot.

"The father came in and gave me a 20-minute monologue on Lance's exercise regimen and what he thought I should do," Dr. Johnston says.

"I told him I really don't know why he brought Lance in other than to enlighten me."

When Lance's summer league baseball coach moved him from the infield to the outfield before the 12th grade, Mr. Butterfield, incensed by the perceived demotion, stopped attending games. But the father instructed his wife to continue taping and Lance to continue with the latest decree: switch-hitting.

But Lance could not hit nearly as well left-handed. When his coaches ordered him to bat from the right side against a right-handed pitcher, Lance knew there would be trouble at home.

When Mr. Butterfield watched the tape later that night, he exploded. He threw the coffee table across the living room. He forbade Lance to ever play for the team again.

It would be Lance's final game of competitive baseball.

"After he chunked that table and told me I couldn't play baseball anymore, I stopped trying to communicate with him," Lance says.

"I loved baseball like I loved all sports. Those hours I was on the field, I was free. He wasn't telling me what to do. He wasn't criticizing me. I could tune him out.

"And here he was taking that away from me."

'He was scary'

Mr. Parkey, owner of an insurance agency in Fort Worth, says he is reluctant to talk about the Butterfields because the first question he hears is always the same.

"Why didn't I do anything?" he says in anticipation.

"As close as I was to the family, I didn't know everything that was going on behind closed doors," he says.

Mr. Parkey knew Mr. Butterfield had a volatile temper. Mr. Parkey and his wife, Arvettia, frequently heard him curse at his wife, his children and his fate. But Mr. Parkey says he never knew there was physical abuse.

"Bill really started going downhill in the last four years of his life," Mr. Parkey says. "In the last year, he was scary."

Mr. Parkey says he will go to the grave believing his friend had a mental illness that went undiagnosed.

"I can't tell you how many times I suggested he get help," Mr. Parkey says. "But he insisted that everybody else was crazy.

"But as bad as Bill got, he was my friend. We were very close. Over the years he drifted from a guy I always kiddingly said was crazy to a guy who was crazy."

Mrs. Butterfield called to ask her husband's only friend to talk to him two weeks before Christmas in 1995.

"We sat in an El Chico and I talked to a stranger for four hours," Mr. Parkey says of his buddy, who had taken to eating only Rice Krispies and drinking salad oil for long periods the year before his death to regulate his weight.

"I know I should have done something," Mr. Parkey says. "But what?"

Mrs. Butterfield says she learned early in their marriage who was boss. She says she tried to leave her husband before Lance was born. She left a note and went home to her parents.

"He came, threatened my father and told me he was not going to let me have the kids. We were his possessions. They were his kids.

"I went back and started the facade that everything was great," she says. "I tried to cover up everything. If there was one thing I was ever good at, it was covering up."

Until her son was charged with murder.

Criminal or victim?

The trial of Lance Butterfield took place in the 213th District Court on the fifth floor of the Tarrant County Criminal Justice Center in late August 1997.

Lance, who had been free on bond since shortly after the shooting, pleaded guilty to murder.

It was left to a jury of eight women and four men to decide his sentence.

Prosecutor Mitch Poe portrayed Lance as a vicious killer who had coldly planned and carried out his father's execution because Mr. Butterfield objected to his relationship with his girlfriend. He pushed for life in prison.

"His father begged him to call 911 for help," Mr. Poe argued at the time and reiterates now, based on information Lance told police, "and then Lance pulled the trigger again."

DMN file photo
Lance Butterfield was escorted from court in August 1997 by family friend Wade Parkey (right).

How threatening could an unarmed man in a towel be?

The defense portrayed Lance as the victim of abuse who could no longer stand the pain.

It sought probation.

Paul Mones, the defense attorney from Portland and author of the book When a Child Kills: Abused Children Who Kill Their Parents, says Mr. Butterfield's actions were "an acid drip on Lance's personality – one minute, one hour, one year at a time until he couldn't take it anymore."

It was Mr. Butterfield's sister, Ms. Forsythe, who sought out Mr. Mones and persuaded him to help with the defense.

Aware of her brother's descent over the years, she also contributed heavily to cover the lawyers' fees.

Unlike Mr. Parkey, she had witnessed her brother many times mete out verbal and physical abuse.

"Lance defended himself," she says. "He defended his family. I honestly believe he saved his mother's, brother's and sister's lives as well as his own. Eventually, Bill would have killed them all."

Before Lance's trial, Mrs. Butterfield discovered that her husband had been keeping a journal, which she found in the garage. She trembled as she read the final entry, which was directed at her: "I have to be able to express my hurt – my pain – my animosity toward you or I will die or worse hurt my kids more than I already have or us."

'Butter we love you'

Day after day, the courtroom was packed with Lance's supporters. Mr. Poe recalls being routinely booed as he walked the hallway.

"When I go into court to prosecute a heinous crime, it's usually 'hip-hip-hooray for me,' " Mr. Poe says. "But not in this case."

"Butter we love you" was painted on the windshield of cars parked outside the courthouse.

"There was not enough room in the courtroom for all the people that wanted to testify for Lance," says Fort Worth attorney Jeff Kearney, who led the defense. "We had his father's best friend, coaches, teachers, Lance's friends, their parents, neighbors, family doctors. We had everybody."

Arthur Butterfield, Bill's father, offered a signed affidavit requesting that his grandson not be prosecuted.

The prosecution, which argued the cold, hard facts of Dec. 27, 1995, didn't produce a single witness to discredit the hours of testimony about the lifetime of abuse. There wasn't a single witness to speak well of the dead.

"People who knew Bill didn't like him," Mr. Poe says. "He was a jerk. But he didn't deserve to be killed."

Tough decisions

In the end, the jury could not agree on a sentence. News reports at the time indicated six jurors initially favored probation, five supported a light sentence and one held out for at least 15 years.

The judge declared a mistrial.

Three months later, on the eve of a second trial, a plea bargain was struck. Lance pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a three-year sentence. He would be eligible for parole after 24 months.

Lance spent two frightening weeks at a transfer facility in Huntsville before being dispatched to the Gist Unit in Beaumont to serve out his term.

There he spent most of his time digging ditches, chopping trees and hoeing. His athletic activities were limited to jumping rope and pull-ups. He was a "yes sir, no sir" model prisoner.

On Feb. 11, 1999, 15 months after he was sentenced, parole board members agreed to release Lance on Nov. 8, four days shy of the second anniversary of his sentencing.

Lance's parole expired one year later.

Dr. Arambula, the forensic psychiatrist who testified on Lance's behalf at sentencing, says Lance's killing again "would be an uncommon event."

Says Mr. Mones, the attorney and author: "I've known children who committed parricide in cases similar to Lance going on to become doctors, lawyers, salesmen and even assistant prison wardens.

"Lance isn't the slightest threat to anyone anymore."

Life goes on

Lance Butterfield finally made it to TCU. Now 24, he is a little more than a semester away from graduating with degrees in accounting and finance. The closest he gets to the football team is Saturday afternoons when he cheers for the Horned Frogs from the stands.

Scott Brown, the former TCU defensive line coach, has moved on. He now coaches at Duke University in North Carolina.

He rarely gets calls about his decade as an assistant to Jim Wacker in Fort Worth, which ended in 1992.

The name Lance Butterfield, Mr. Brown says, replying to an early-summer inquiry, does not ring a bell. Nor can he remember any specific meeting at his father's restaurant in Colorado.

Sure, he says, he may have met Lance and his father over that Christmas break, but given Texans' propensity for vacationing in Colorado, there were many such meetings.

So many parents. So many young football players.

"I have a tendency to be a positive person," Mr. Brown says. "I may have said the boy was a good player with a fine future, but I probably have said that to dozens of parents and kids under similar circumstances."

When he hears about Lance's life since that meeting, he requests a photo of Lance that might jog his memory. It doesn't help.

"Please tell Lance that I am very, very sorry for any hurt I may have caused," the coach says. "Please ..."

Meanwhile at the house on Tabor Street, the Butterfield family home since Lance was in seventh grade, his girlfriend flits in and out at will.

In the back yard, the pitching machines are long gone. Six metal poles are all that remain from the disassembled batting cages.

Kathy Butterfield works in customer relations for American Airlines.

Billy, 34, has a job transporting industrial equipment. He visits Lance frequently with his wife and their two sons.

On weekends, Lance sometimes watches his 10-year-old nephew, Quaid, Billy's boy, play baseball.

Because Billy helps coach his son, Lance spends most games talking to his sister-in-law and other parents in the stands. He never moves toward the backstop or questions an umpire's call. He sometimes flinches when parents get too close to the backstop or shout at their boys.

"I cheer for Quaid and his teammates," he says. "That's all."

Asked whether he is happy with the way life has turned out, Lance leans back from the kitchen table and thinks for several seconds.

"I'm just glad I don't have to come home anymore to the hell that life was," he says.

"But I wish my father was here to experience this family ... what might have been if only he had gotten help."

A single tear running down his cheek punctuates the thought.


The National Alliance for Youth Sports requires members to abide by its Parents' Code of Ethics, which reads as follows:

• I will encourage good sportsmanship by demonstrating positive support for all players, coaches and officials at every game, practice or other youth sports event.

• I will place the emotional and physical well-being of my child ahead of my personal desire to win.

• I will insist that my child play in a safe and healthy environment.

• I will require that my child's coach be trained in the responsibilities of being a youth sports coach and that the coach upholds the Coaches' Code of Ethics [which can be viewed at www.nays.org/coaches].

• I will support coaches and officials working with my child, in order to encourage a positive and enjoyable experience for all.

• I will demand a sports environment for my child that is free from drugs, tobacco and alcohol and will refrain from their use at all youth sports events.

• I will remember that the game is for youth – not adults.

• I will do my very best to make youth sports fun for my child. I will ask my child to treat other players, coaches, fans and officials with respect regardless of race, sex, creed or ability.

• I will help my child enjoy the youth sports experience by doing whatever I can, such as being a respectful fan, assisting with coaching or providing transportation.

• I will read the National Standards For Youth Sports and do what I can to help all youth sports organizations implement and enforce them.

SOURCE: National Alliance for Youth Sports, www.nays.org


Before the game

• Tell your child you are proud of him or her, regardless of how well he or she plays.

• Tell you child to play hard and have fun.

• Remind him or her that it's OK to be nervous.

During the game

• Let the coaches coach. Avoid giving your child (or other players) advice during the game.

• Cheer good plays and good efforts by both teams

• Mention good calls by the officials to others.

• Remember to have fun. Enjoy the day.

After the game

• Thank the officials.

• Thank the coaches.

• Let your child tell you about the game. (Avoid giving post-game analysis unless asked.)

• Tell your child that you are proud of him or her.

SOURCE: Positive Coaching Alliance, www.positivecoach.org

• • •

You can e-mail Barry Horn at bhorn@dallasnews.com.

© 2009 The Dallas Morning News