May 10, 2023 - Sports

New bill would crack down on toxic culture in youth sports

Illustration of a mute symbol over a whistle being blown by a person.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

A top Beacon Hill Democrat wants to put curriculums in place to combat what some describe as a toxic culture in school sports.

Driving the news: There have been numerous incidents involving racism, antisemitism and anti-LGBTQ hate speech between players at youth sports events in Massachusetts in recent years.

  • In 2016, for example, Catholic school athletes targeted antisemitic chants at rivals from the Jewish community in Newton.

Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Stone Creem wants to counter that trend. She introduced a bill that would create curriculums to reshape school sports around social and emotional learning.

  • Rep. Kay Khan is sponsoring a companion bill in the House.

Details: The bill would lay out guidelines for coaches on teaching about leadership roles, emotional management, conflict resolution and building team cultures free of hate speech. Schools would have the option to adopt the curriculum.

What they're saying: "What [student athletes] learn varies greatly from team to team and coach to coach," Creem said last week at a State House hearing on her bill.

  • At best, she says, coaches nurture leadership, teamwork and self-discipline skills without a set of best practices for how to create positive environments.
  • And at worst, they turn to old-fashioned methods that are out of step with what's taught in schools and could create the conditions for bullying, abuse or hate.

The bottom line: "It's clear that we need to transform sports teams into safe and supportive environments to build positive relationships and develop social and emotional skills,” Creem says.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Boston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Boston stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Boston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more