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“Brawling at the ballpark”: Commission discusses youth football disturbances

By Bryce Abshier – Contact

(Thoughts? Submit a letter to the editor here.)

Heated arguments and literal fistfights at the Belleview Sports Complex were a topic of discussion at a recent Belleview City Commission meeting. Reportedly, some parents are concerned about foul language, including racial slurs, getting thrown around at Pop Warner youth football games, as well as at practices, by adults.

Belleview City Commissioner Ray Dwyer brought this unfortunate news to the commission. “I have received a couple calls in reference to… There are a lot of parents calling concerned about issues with the Pop Warner program going on back there,” explained Commissioner Dwyer. “They said coaches are fighting with one another, racial things being thrown back and forth, and some serious, they’re afraid something is going to pop off,” Dwyer said.

“Does the county actually control the Pop Warner sports?,” Dwyer asked his fellow commissioners.

City of Belleview Mayor Christine Dobkowski then offered her insight. “The county controls all of the leagues. But also, obviously, if there are law enforcement issues, it is within the city limits,” Dobkowski explained.

Belleview Police Chief Terry Holland said that there have been “a lot” of problems at the Belleview Sports Complex. “One of the problems is the parents fighting. Literally out on the field, fisticuff fighting,” Holland explained. “It’s just getting out of hand out there.”

Sadly, most of these disturbances aren’t caused by visiting teams. “I hate to say it, but the majority of the problems are not the incoming teams, it is our Belleview teams,” Chief Holland said.

Commissioner Dwyer was told that the regular practices are also causing disturbances. “The people that call me say it is even during the practices during the week. The coaches calling the kids names, really concerning,” explained Dwyer. “The language is out of hand,” replied Holland.

In other items of business discussed by the Belleview City Commission:

Baker Acts Decline

A notable drop in Baker Acts in Belleview left some on the commission asking questions. A Baker Act, also called the Florida Mental Health Act, “focuses on crisis services for individuals with mental illness” according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

A high volume of Baker Acts and drug overdoses inside of Belleview city limits had been a point of concern at earlier City Commission meetings, occurring at a frequency of about once every other day.

A recent notable decline left some commissioners to speculate as to the cause.

“The drop in Baker Acts, is that because the Fish Games have left?,” asked Commissioner Mike Goldman. “It was just remarkable,” he said.

Goldman was referring to recent city legislation that forced the closure of Belleview’s eight internet cafes. Belleview was the last city in Marion County to allow these businesses to operate, until they were ousted in September by the passing of a city ordinance that prohibited the businesses.

“It appears that may be having a little effect,” replied Belleview Police Chief Terry Holland. “If you’re out at night, there is a lot less movement out at night, by walkers and bicyclists,” he stated.

Holland said a little more time is needed to analyze the full effect of the internet cafe closures. “If you notice, the weekly reports I send you, they’ve gotten smaller,” the Chief told commissioners, referring to weekly incident reports produced by Belleview Police.

It could be reasoned that the closure of the internet cafes would potentially contribute to fewer Baker Acts, as well as general crime, in Belleview. The Florida Gaming Control Commission warns that internet cafes are “often associated with organized crime, money laundering, fraud, drugs, prostitution, and pose a general risk to the players and communities in which they exist.” If this is true, Belleview is no longer a magnet for all of that undesirable behavior.

Code Enforcement Works Fridays

City of Belleview Code Enforcement has adjusted its schedule to now be available Monday through Friday. Previously, there were no code enforcement officials available on Fridays, as Belleview city offices observe a 4-day work schedule.


  1. Football dad on October 13, 2023 at 3:27 pm

    This letter is far from the truth. I have been at every practice and game all year, and I have not seen a single fist fight or coach using a racial slur! Football is a passionate sport so I have seen tempers raised but not towards a child and definitely haven’t seen coaches cursing at players! There was an incident where an opposing teams parent was looking for a fight, (which he didn’t get) but the coaches along with the belleview police stopped it before any punches were thrown and the parent was removed from the field.

    • Editor on October 17, 2023 at 7:59 am

      I would encourage you to attend the Belleview City Commission meeting tonight and express your side of the story. This article is only reporting topics discussed by the Belleview City Commission. The meetings are open to the public, they meet tonight (Tuesday, October 17 at 6:00 PM).

    • Cheer mom on October 19, 2023 at 6:44 am

      This is not 100% accurate!!! There was one incident that a player on 10 U says the N-word and the coaches stopped him from saying it was not the coaches saying it! It’s football season rather Your in pop Warner or all the way in nfl coaches and athletes get heated, but there has never been a fist fight!!!!!! I have seen theses boys and girls praying together with there coaches it’s all family out there in them feilds

  2. Active Cheer Mom on October 19, 2023 at 7:07 am

    I have two cheerleaders in the Belleview Pop Warner league, and I attend every practice, every game and every function. I’ve witnessed nothing but encouraging coaches, teamwork, and honestly a small family being built on both my children’s teams. Having cheered at other places that we did experience drama, fighting, etc, coming to Belleview and being a part of the Rattlers has been a breath of fresh air. Not once have I witnessed a physical altercation or even coaches arguing or belittling children. we love Belleview Pop Warner Rattlers and are more than proud to be apart of this family.

  3. Football & Cheer Mom on October 19, 2023 at 8:37 am

    “Brawling at the ballpark”…Such a stretch from the truth, clickbait way to misrepresent an organization which provides an extracurricular activity to kids keeping them from trouble. I do not know who the parents are that have contacted the City Commission or the Police Department with such claims, but I would hope, as parents, if they had such worrying concerns regarding the environment their children were in, they themselves would immediately remove them. I am personally there, at that field, for every practice and game and have never seen or heard any of the incidents described. My children have participated with this PopWarner organization for the last 5 years, after coming from another local youth sports program for the exact reasons listed in this article. The camaraderie and sportsmanship within the Belleview PopWarner organization are commendable. There have been visiting teams whose behavior was embarrassing and unacceptable, but the blame should be placed on their organizational leaders not our home field. As this is a traveling sports league, we have visited fields of opposing teams with questionable safety and values. Those experiences make me grateful my children are part of the organization Belleview has. I am not sure what the end goal is for those complaining. Everyone at Belleview PopWarner are volunteers who are giving their time to the children of our community, and I bet an offer from others willing to donate theirs for the sake of the kids would not be turned away!

  4. Cari on October 19, 2023 at 9:42 am

    I’ve been there for 2 years. And never have I saw a fist fight break out. Never even racial slurs. Or coaches screaming and calling kids names. I’m there almost everyday with football and cheer!

  5. Pop Warner Cheer Parent on October 19, 2023 at 9:52 am

    My daughter is a cheerleader for the Belleview Rattlers and our experience here has been nothing short of amazing. Every coach, player, administration member, and parent have been nothing but welcoming and supportive.

  6. Football Mom on October 19, 2023 at 9:56 am

    This is my sons first year playing football for the Belleview Rattlers and he has never been cursed at or treated any type of way. His coach is amazing and has taught him so much this year. I’ve never seen any parents or coaches arguing or fighting.

  7. Pop Warner coach. on October 19, 2023 at 10:28 am

    Belleview Rattlers fields have been mine and my children’s home away from home for three years now and many more to go. We are all one big family out on those fields. We have not had any altercations that have lead to a fist fight. Do we have disagreements? Yes! Every family does, but it never gets that bad. We all care about each other to much to let it get to physical fighting.

  8. Sarah on October 19, 2023 at 10:41 am

    This is far from the truth. There has not been a single fight between children, parents, or coaches. My children have been apart of the rattlers team for years. This group of people have the upmost respect for the kids parents and the whole organization. My only complaint is they don’t have enough lights on both sides of the field for all the football teams and cheerleading teams to see once it starts getting dark.

  9. Sarah on October 19, 2023 at 10:50 am

    My family have been apart of the rattlers for years. This is far from the truth. The whole organization is amazing from the kids, parents, coaches and commissioners. They have the upmost respect. There have not been any fights between any of the coaches and parents on the football or cheerleader side. My only complaint with the field itself is that it needs more lights so we don’t have to cut our time for the kids to practice. They need more lights around the entire field that’s supports all the football and cheerleaders.

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