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Parents, Coaches Brawl After O.C. Soccer Game

Violence: Three adults are held after a coach reportedly goes after a rival player in AYSO title contest.

June 27, 2001|JACK LEONARD and RICHARD FAUSSET | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Tired and sweaty, the boys of the AYSO Palmdale Eagles and Chino Hills Chiefs had just finished the customary end-of-game handshake when the adults started throwing punches.

In what authorities said is another example of the parental violence that has increasingly marred youth sports, more than 30 parents and coaches clashed in a fight that ended in the arrest of three adults at a San Juan Capistrano soccer field Sunday.

The violence broke out after an assistant coach for the Chino Hills team, which won 2-0, allegedly tried to pick a fight with a Palmdale player, officials said. In reaction, parents from the Palmdale team rushed onto the field to "defuse the tension," said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino. But that caused more parents to spill onto the field, with one swinging a metal rod.

One parent needed treatment for minor cuts and a swollen eye, and another suffered a 2-inch bite on his arm, Amormino said. Deputies arrested one parent on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and a brother and sister for resisting arrest.

"It was a free-for-all," Amormino said. "This is just a kids game. Youth sports should teach sportsmanship and character, and the parents should be learning from that."

Jesse Elizondo, head coach of the Palmdale Eagles, a boys' 14-and-under American Youth Soccer Organization team, said tension mounted toward the end of the championship game when a Chino Hills assistant coach began berating one of the Eagle players, cursing at him in an attempt to intimidate him.

When the game ended, Elizondo said, the opposing coach approached the player aggressively. Thinking the coach was going to strike the player, Elizondo, 45, rushed onto the field and stepped between the two, he said.

"I told the guy, 'Don't even think about hurting my player,' " Elizondo said.

Soon, about 30 adults from both sidelines were on the field, he said.

"I don't know who threw the first punch, but I saw someone from their side kick someone from our side," Elizondo said.

"The fight started. It was a big deal, people were throwing punches and everything. I was in the middle of things trying to hold people back," he said.

The melee was short but vicious, with one adult wielding a long metal object, possibly an umbrella, Elizondo said.

Sheriff's deputies, called by tournament organizers, showed up moments later, but most of the other team and its supporters had left, Elizondo said. Authorities eventually arrested two Palmdale supporters--a brother and sister--and one man from the Chino Hills sidelines.

"Soccer is like any other sport. Fights happen," Elizondo said. 'But I've never seen something like that in AYSO."

He called a meeting of his players on the field. "I told them we were really sorry for what they saw. I would have never in my life exposed them to that. I mean, my son plays on the team. How could I expose him to this?"

Violence by adults at youth sports events has generated growing concern in recent years, prompting some leagues to restricting what parents can say when attending games. Some leagues have even stopped taking the score of matches to reduce the level of fan competitiveness.

Sheriff's spokesman Amormino said the fighting began soon after the final whistle blew about 4:30 p.m. As the boys left the field, an assistant coach with the Chiefs allegedly taunted an Eagles player. Witnesses told deputies the coach bumped into the player and then tried to hit him.

A group of Palmdale parents then sprinted across the field to intervene. As one parent rebuked the coach, a Chino Hills parent--later identified as Mark Kaylor, 40--allegedly swung a silver, metal rod at him. The first swing missed. A second struck the parent on the head.

Kaylor then jumped on the unidentified parent and punched him several times. Other parents and coaches joined the brawl, trying to pry Kaylor away.

A couple of the adults managed to sit on Kaylor until he promised to cool off. But as they loosened their grip, Kaylor bit one of them on the bicep, drawing blood, police said.

By the time sheriff's deputies arrived, 150 people were in the center of the field. Kaylor tried to slip away with his wife and child, but other parents pointed him out.

More deputies quickly arrived amid the confusion. Officials said the deputies saw a grass-covered man leaving the field and nursing a cut on his bare back.

When they tried to detain him, he broke free and began to run, authorities said. His sister tried to help him escape, and deputies eventually arrested the pair for resisting arrest. Sheriff's officials identified them as David Richard Vargas, 19, and Margaret Jessica Ramirez, 20.

Sheriff's officials said Kaylor was released from Orange County Jail on Monday after posting bail. They said late Tuesday that a judge had ordered Ramirez freed. Vargas remained behind bars in lieu of $500 bail.

Vargas, Ramirez and Kaylor could not be reached for comment, nor could the Chiefs' coach.

The melee is just the latest in a string of violent disruptions during youth sports events to capture headlines.

In one highly publicized incident a year ago in Massachusetts, a hockey player's father allegedly beat another player's father to death during an argument over rough play on the ice.

Last year, the father of a Northridge Little League player was sentenced to 45 days in jail for attacking and threatening to kill his son's coach because his son was only allowed to play three innings of a six-inning game.

Some sports leagues are trying to reduce tensions.

One junior basketball league based in Orange County tried a "Silent Sunday" program in which parents who attend matches are allowed only to applaud.

A Mission Viejo soccer league stopped recording scores for players under 14 during the regular season.

And an athletic league in Jupiter, Fla., now requires parents to take classes on how to behave at sporting events.

Times staff writer Monte Morin contributed to this report.

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