Where would junior club sport be without mums and dads?
Without a doubt, they are an invaluable resource and an essential part of any sport.
But what about those parents who turn ugly?
You know the type. They scream instructions from the sidelines, admonish the referee (who is often barely a teenager), challenge the coach, storm onto the playing field or even get into a punch-up with an equally passionate opposing team parent.
Following are some tips for parents, coaches and administrators on how to ensure behaviour at our kids’ sporting events remains positive and supportive, and maintains an emphasis on fun and participation so things don’t turn ugly.
Tips for mums and dads
Be a good role model. Children watch and learn from you so make sure you set a good example.
Avoid a ‘win at all costs’ attitude. Although you may think winning is important, the focus for junior sport should be on fun.
Be aware that your abusive behaviour may be against the law. Ask yourself ‘Would my mother be upset or offended by what I am saying or doing?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ then it’s best to sit down and be quiet.
Try not to be critical of coaches, referees or umpires. Many are volunteers who give their time to make sport possible for all our children and some are just learning. If you have some constructive advice for them leave it until after the game or have a chat with the head coach or referee.
Tips for coaches
If the abuse is directed at you, try to stay calm, maintain your professionalism and explain that you will discuss the issue with them during a break or after the match. Do not accept or ignore abusive, offensive or foul language.
If an official is the focus of the parent’s abuse, you should try to defuse the situation. Talk calmly to the parent, acknowledge their frustration and emphasise that the call has been made and that the decision must be respected. You can refer to your club’s Code of Behaviour and explain the penalties if the behaviour continues. Make sure you report the incident to the relevant club administrator, preferably in writing.
If the abuse is directed at children or a child playing in your team or on the opposing team:
· don't ignore a parent who verbally abuses their child on the grounds that ’it's none of my business;
· speak to the over-enthusiastic parent privately before their behaviour gets out of hand - this will often prevent the situation escalating;
· highlight the positives and emphasise the need to identify children’s strengths, not their weaknesses. Emphasise that children are there to have fun, develop skills and build their confidence;
· remind the parent about the club’s Codes of Behaviour;
· explain what may happen if the behaviour continues based on your club’s membership rules and policies;
· report the incident to the club’s administrator if the behaviour continues and you foresee a future problem.
Clubs have a legal responsibility to address behaviour that offends community standards or is against the law (e.g. racial vilification, sexual harassment, common assault). If you witness behaviour that you think may be illegal you should report it to the police. Similarly, if a bad situation escalates and becomes dangerous, play should be suspended and the police may be required to intervene.
Check out our video scenario ‘Ugly parents and abuse of umpires’ on our YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mULyZDiRD-A&list=UUOxdW3VHSoE1TC3HOL_sIsA&index=2&feature=plcp
Play by the Rules offers free online training, information and resources for clubs and sporting organisations to ensure everyone involved in sport can do so in enjoyable, safe environments, free from discrimination or harassment.