Saturday, 17 December 2011

Saturday Sport: Ugly Sports Parents

In our Sporty Family, much of the weekends are often devoted to sport. So, on Saturdays I thought I’d write a Youth Sports post. Today I thought I’d write about a particular species of sports parent that I have seen week in and week out…..the ugly sports parent. I am not making any comments about fashion (except to say that leggings are indeed not pants!) ….By the term ugly, I am referring to their down right ugly behavior.

Everyone is aware of the ugly sports parent cliché. The parent who stands on the side-lines shouting, screaming or abusing their child, their child’s team, or the opposition. Sometimes even the officials receive this treatment as well including the coaches, managers and referees.

One particular incident I have witnessed was after one of  my daughters away soccer games. After the game, the teams must line up and shake each others hands. One particularly petulant little boy from the other team neglected to shake  the had of a boy in my daughters team and chose to use his knee to render his aggression upon our boy’s groin.

Understandably, the father of our boy, our coach and the referee went to speak to the opposing team officials. Meanwhile, our guys were sitting together on the grass with their fruit and water. Much to our surprise, the father of the kneeing boy from the other team approached the kids and began to loudly ridicule them for their uniform. He jeeringly mocked
…”Oh, look at those beautiful uniforms with those names written so neatly on your backs…”

He dropped the ‘f’-bomb’ on a number of occasions as he continued his diatribe about the kids being rich and privileged.

All of us were completely dumbfounded, until one of our dads politely asked the man to leave. I should say I was impressed by our dad's considerable restraint. We were left in disbelief that a father of another child would say such things to a group of kids.

I admit that sometimes I have lost a little self control at my children’s sporting events. I have cheered very loudly from the side-lines and whooped with delight when they have been successful. However, I have been making a real effort to control this behavior because I am worried that it could embarrass, pressure or negatively effect my kids. Not to mention that the other parents think that I’m one of those ‘crazy’ ones.

I have discovered what helps me the most is to film or photograph the event. This way I need to keep myself contained so that I don’t ruin the shot. Also, I find that viewing the event from behind the camera lens stops me from getting too caught up in the moment of the event and forces me to see the event from a more distanced perspective………prepare yourselves for lots of photos!

I have never, however, criticised or berated my children, their team, the opposition or officials. I have trouble understanding why some parents do this. Is it because they too have been caught up in the moment and this is there way of ‘encouraging’ their children? Or are they trying to re-live their days of sporting glory (or lack of it) through their children. Whatever the reason,  Do these abusive parents believe that they are actually helping their child??

I do not believe that abuse or aggressive behavior of any kind helps the child. The motivation for sporting success must come from the child,  an internal drive. The motivation should certainly not come from parental pressure, shouted from the sidelines The bad behavior also must act as a very poor role model for the kids, who may copy this behavior themselves.

Recently, the referees from one of the local football codes went on strike and all games for that weekend were cancelled. the reason for the strike action was because they felt they could no longer tolerate the bad behavior and disrespect. Not just from the children, but from the parents as well.

I teach my children that the referee must be respected on all occasions, even if my child believes they are wrong. I am also constantly telling them that the most important thing is for them to put in their best effort, regardless of the final result. I have tried to instill in them the habit of  congratulating and thanking the other competitors, also no matter what the result.

I have spoken to my children about these things many, many times. But I think the best way of teaching them these values is to lead by example. I will to do my up-most to be a positive role model for my children. For the sake of our children and their future in sport,  I implore all other Youth Sports parents to undertake to do the same!

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