Many of us have heard horror stories about the terrible behavior exhibited by the parents of young athletes. Perhaps the most shocking incident occurred in 2000, when Thomas Junta of Massachusetts beat the coach of his young son's hockey game to death following a dispute over several on-ice infractions during the game. Junta was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2002 and was sentenced to a prison sentence of six to 10 years.

Thankfully, most disagreements don't escalate to this level, but overzealous parents can cause an atmosphere of good sportsmanship to go out the window when their disappointment turns to rage. It's one thing to encourage your child to do his best on the field, in the rink, or on the court--but when this desire becomes too strong, it can do more harm than good.

Keeping your self motivated for activity is key. Sometimes scheduling activities that need to be completed for the day will be helpful.

Taking It Too Far

According to experts, parents, fans, and coaches often don't realize that their actions can have a lasting emotional effect on kids, and many children are leaving sports activities because the fun is unfairly taken away by adults. Are you putting too much pressure on your little athlete? The National Alliance for Youth Sports lists these 10 warning signs.

1. You push your child with the hopes of getting them an athletic scholarship, or you have aspirations of a professional sports career for them.

2. You're more concerned about the team winning than if your child had fun participating.

3. You force your child to practice at home until you think they've shown sufficient improvement.

4. You punish or act coldly toward your child if they don't perform up to your expectations.

5. You constantly compare your child's skills to those of others.

6. Your child no longer enjoys playing the sport and has maybe even asked you to stop coming to games.

7. You get in game-related arguments with other parents.

8. You talk often to the coach about the way he or she coaches the game and which positions each of the children are playing.

9. During games, you shout negative, critical remarks at your child, other children, the coaches, and the referees.

10. You focus on the outcome of the game, rather than the enjoyment of playing it.

Tips to Curb Bad Behavior

The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF), a non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting the healthy development of youth in sports, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Governors Committee on Physical Fitness and Sports, convened a consensus meeting with representatives from more than 30 sports, medical, educational, and professional organizations to create a code of conduct for parents and spectators to abide by at every game.

The essential elements of character-building and ethics in sports are embodied in the concept of sportsmanship and six core principles: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship. The highest potential of sports is achieved when competition reflects these six pillars of character.

Highlights from the code of conduct include:

1. I will not force my child to participate in sports.

2. I will remember that children participate to have fun and that the game is for youth, not adults.

3. I will inform the coach of any physical disability or ailment that may affect the safety of my child or the safety of others.

4. I will learn the rules of the game and the policies of the league.

5. I (and my guests) will be a positive role model for my child and encourage sportsmanship by showing respect and courtesy, and by demonstrating positive support for all players, coaches, officials and spectators at every game, practice or other sporting event.

6. I (and my guests) will not engage in any kind of unsportsmanlike conduct with any official, coach, player, or parent, such as booing and taunting; refusing to shake hands; or using profane language or gestures.

7. I will not encourage any behaviors or practices that would endanger the health and well-being of the athletes.

8. I will teach my child to play by the rules and to resolve conflicts without resorting to hostility or violence.

9. I will demand that my child treat other players, coaches, officials and spectators with respect regardless of race, creed, color, sex or ability.

10. I will teach my child that doing one's best is more important than winning, so that my child will never feel defeated by the outcome of a game or his or her performance.