Parents need to toe the line
MOST parents want to see their children shine on the sports field.
Score a try. Kick a goal. Shoot a basket. Swim a personal best.
But what happens when parents and spectators pressure children from the sideline so much that all the enjoyment of the sport evaporates?
Yelling at players, condemning the opposition and booing a referee decision may all be part of the atmosphere at major adult sporting events but at a junior sport event, everyone can hear you scream.
Dr Danya Hodgett is a research fellow at CQUniversity specialising in sport development and participation.
"There was a soccer club in Sydney that trialled silent games," Dr Hodgett said.
"I don't think we need to go to that extreme but I do think parents need to be educated on what appropriate encouragement is and where they are crossing that line.
"You see it every weekend and watch children getting visibly deflated by comments."
A number of Australian elite sports stars including cricketer Usman Khawaja, cricketer/footballer Ellyse Perry and Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou have thrown their support behind a new campaign to stamp out poor sideline behaviour at junior sport events across Australia.
The campaign is called Let Kids Be Kids and is run by Play By The Rules - a unique collaboration between the Australian Sports Commission and all state and territory sports and recreation departments.
"It's a positive campaign and there is certainly a need for it," Dr Hodgetts said.
She says while sporting role models do have a big influence on children the major influence is their parents.
But she says there appears to be a disconnect between what a sport code offers in its programs and what some parents want for their child.
"There's a big trend in sport moving towards non-competitive programs like Auskick, Aussie Hoops and other great programs that encourage learning through play and the development of fundamental motor skills.
"But parents don't seem to want their kids to be playing - they want them to be performing."
Dr Hodgetts said the Australian Institute of Sport had done a lot of research into sporting champions and the pathways they had taken.
She said the majority played a number of different sports before transitioning into their preferred sport later in their development.
"If your child could only study one subject at school you would worry about their development and missed opportunities," she said.
"The same goes for sport."
Dr Hodgetts said your son or daughter may be a brilliant soccer player in the under-8s but that doesn't guarantee they will play for Australia.
Of course there are exceptions.
"I always think of Venus and Serena Williams who started playing when they were about four," Dr Hodgetts said.
"But for every Venus and Serena Williams there must be millions who have dropped out and never wanted to pick up a racquet again.
"I've got no doubt there are kids that only want to swim or play tennis but it is up to parents to recognise how much of that is driven by them and how much is driven by the child internally."
Dr Hodgetts hopes Bundaberg parents start implementing some of the Let Kids Be Kids philosophy into their parenting so sports at a grassroots level can flourish.
"Lifelong physical activity is what we need as a society, for our health, and if children make a career out of it later, that's a bonus.
"At the very least we want children to leave sport with a positive association, not hating it."
Code of Conduct for junior sport parents.
- I won't pressure my child in any way - I know that this is their game, not mine.
- I will not use bad language, nor will I harass players, coaches, officials or other spectators.
- I will encourage my child to play within the rules and respect officials' and coaches' decisions - no matter what.
- I will teach my child to respect the efforts of their opponents.
- I will remember that children learn best by example so I will applaud good plays/performances by both my child's team and their opponents.
- I will give positive comments that motivate and encourage continued effort.
- I will focus on my child's efforts and performance - not the score.
- I will thank the coaches, officials and other volunteers who give their time to conduct the event for my child.
- I will help when asked by a coach or official.
- I won't criticise or ridicule my child's performance after the game.
- I will not arrive at the venue intoxicated or drink alcohol at junior matches.
- I will condemn the use of violence, verbal abuse or vilification in any form - regardless of whether it is by spectators, coaches, officials or players.
- I will ensure you are aware and follow the correct processes to follow if you have an issue or complaint - do not perpetuate issues with gossip or general criticism.
- I will respect the rights, dignity and worth of all people involved in the game, regardless of their gender, ability or cultural background.
Source: Play by the Rules