This is a short extract from the Winter 2012 edition of ‘RELAY’ the Child Protection in Sport Unit Newsletter.
“Over the past 18 months we have been chairing a working group to examine the issue of parental behaviour in sport. We know that sport could not take place in the UK on the scale that it does without the support and effort of many parents, who often volunteer to keep sports clubs running.
However, despite the positives, evidence suggests that parents’ attendance also has it’s downsides. A survey conducted by Children 1st in Scotland has revealed that 43 per cent of children surveyed had directly experienced negative behaviour from spectators, many of whom are parents, with swearing and name calling being the most common form. All of the children who had experienced it said the behaviour made them feel threatened. 20 per cent said it made them want to stop taking part altogether.
The survey, Spectator behaviour in sport, consulted 154 children and 340 parents. It explored the impact of spectator behaviour on children and young people. For many children and young people, their parents encourage and facilitate their involvement and add to their positive experience. But, as this survey highlights, sometimes parents can behave in ways that negatively impact on their own child and other children’s experiences of sport. We know this can take many forms, ranging from inappropriate comments through to bullying and abuse, such as:
• pushy parents who put inappropriate amounts of pressure on their child in sport
• parents who contradict and are overly challenging towards the coach
• parents who stand on the sideline and shout negative and abusive comments at their own and/or other children.
Young officials are at particular risk of abuse in sport. They often stop being perceived as children as soon as they step onto the field of play and take up their officiating role.”
How very, very sad.
Well it doesn’t matter how many ‘books’ ‘agreements’, ‘initiatives’, and ‘goodwill gestures’ are introduced by governing bodies, many parents are just incapable of behaving reasonably when it come to children’s sport – I remember abusive parents yelling trash from the sidelines 40 odd years ago when I was playing.
Since then, we’ve had hundreds of initiatives to try and stamp out this outrageous behaviour and I guess we’ll have hundreds more ‘cos try as I might, I can never forsee a time when the problem will ever be resolved.
However that doesn’t mean I’m not going to support any attempts to stamp it out; words of wisdom, sportmanship, encouragement and consolation, laced with a smile or two are the necessary requirement for watching children’s sport. And if, perchance, the person standing next to you isn’t quite on your wavelength in terms of reasonable and sane behaviour, who am I to judge when a flailing elbow catches them accidentally in the mouth – oops clumsy you!