Saturday, February 4, 2012

Are you a good sport?



Good sporting parents support their little athletes in positive ways, not through bad behaviour
With school starting back this week, soon there will be plenty of sporting clubs holding sign-on days.
And just as I wrote last week about how I encourage all children to learn music, I also encourage them to participate in sport.
Sport gives children so many benefits from learning about teamwork and discipline, regular exercise, sportsmanship and having fun.
You may remember in the news last month about former Labor leader Mark Latham’s outburst at his child’s swimming teacher, Bev Waugh (the mother of cricketers Steve and Mark).
Mrs Waugh, aged 65, runs a free government swimming program that aims to teach a broad range of skills with an emphasis on water safety.
On the second day of the program Mr Latham, however, verbally attacked Mrs Waugh in an intimidating manner, saying his two children had learned nothing.
The incident has since been reported to the Department of Education, though I doubt it will go any further.
Just what Mr Latham thought he could achieve by intimidating his child’s coach is beyond me.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad sporting parents.
In more serious, though thankfully rare cases, there are parents who scream obscenities at their kids on the sporting field and at the coaches and other spectators, and it often gets physical.
There is a theory that parents who are “bad sports” are just failed athletes trying to live vicariously through their athletic children.
Some of them push their kids to become elite athletes with specialised training, camps and personal coaches, whether the child wants it or not.
Most incidents of violence by parents on youth sports fields are from America, not Australia, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all learn how to avoid becoming a crazed, overbearing parent with a stressed-out, unhappy child.
So here’s a no-nonsense list of what is and what is not acceptable on the sidelines.
What not to do:
  • Yell and scream from the sidelines.
  • Undermine the coach.
  • Dispute the umpire’s decisions.
  • Insult opposition players.
  • Urge kids to go harder or do better.
  • Argue with other spectators.
  • Complain when your child is sitting on the bench and is not on the field.
  • Set unreasonable expectations.
  • Make threats towards other spectators, coaches or players.
  • Tell your child what they did wrong after every match.
  • Don’t define success and failure in terms of winning and losing.
What to do:
  • Encourage participation.
  • Remember that kids play sport for fun.
  • Respect the umpire’s decisions and teach your child to do the same.
  • Respect all officials, coaches, players and other spectators and teach your child to do the same.
  • Congratulate all children regardless of the result.
  • Applaud when either team makes a good play.
  • Avoid comparing children and respect developmental differences.
  • If you have a complaint or concern, don’t raise it in the middle of a game.
  • Praise your child for their efforts, and don’t get mad at them for losing.
  • Teach your child how to settle disputes on the field without resorting to violence or verbal abuse.
  • Ask your child if they had fun, before you ask who won the game.
  • Don’t accept or encourage violence or abuse from any member of the sporting community.
It can be stressful to see your children playing sport, especially when you see what you might think is an unfair call.
But remember that children see sports in a different way to adults. To them it is not as competitive as you may think, it is a chance to play on a field with their friends.

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