Our Olympians learned from a bad example at home
Tears! Tantrums! Bad sportsmanship! Olympics? Not a bit of it. I’m talking junior sports – one of the most tempestuous, frustrating and downright immature sporting arenas known to man.
It was sad, but not particularly surprising to hear this week that the Southern Football League has banned its mini-league carnival due to atrocious behaviour against young umpires.
Meanwhile, a local netball association in the Hills has received an unprecedented number of complaints this year relating to the abuse of umpires and players, and umpiring standards.
Of course there’s absolutely no excuse for parents being abusive on the sidelines – without umpires and coaches volunteering their time, there’d be no such thing as junior sport.
But jeez, it can be hard to hold your tongue when it’s pouring icy rain and you’ve lost all feeling in your feet and the kids are losing again and the man in yellow seems to be favouring his own *%$#!! team.
But as I said, there’s no excuse for it.
That’s why I know of netball parents who voluntarily stand way behind the fence, to ensure their Tourette’s-type tanties can’t be heard by other parents, umpires or their own children.
I also know of husbands who’ve been banned by wives from turning up at their kids’ games because they can’t hold their tongues or tempers.
Unfortunately, not all parents exercise the same self-sanctions or self-control. One friend watched aghast this year when a well-heeled Adelaide private school mum reduced a young hockey umpire to tears over a penalty against her son.
“It’s just a game!” the angry mum kept insisting, until the poor umpire started sobbing. Perhaps the mum – perhaps all of us at times – would do well to remember those four little words.
I have to say, though, nothing quite prepares you for the emotional intensity of watching your own children play sport: the exhilarating highs when they finally ‘get it’; the screaming irrits when they don’t.
I lost a few years off my life last summer when Jack and Harry started “competitive” tennis. You forget how many rules there are for little brains that would rather be playing chasey. (If I had a dollar for every time I said “change sides” I’d be sipping G&T in the Bahamas.)
But here’s the upside.
In an era when childhood activities seem to be compromised by political correctness, cotton wool and computer games, sport still teaches kids the joy of winning and the pain of losing as a team.
And hopefully, if they’ve got great coaches like we have at the Bridgewater Raiders, they learn to become good losers as well as gracious winners – even if winning twice in a season is considered a good year. (We swear Mt Lofty U11s are all reserves for the Power. Big?! Some of them would cast a shadow on Mattie Primus.)
Sport offers a fascinating insight into the human condition, too. After a few years as a junior footy mum, here’s what I’ve come to know:
THE willingness of parents to become involved in committee work is directly related to their own experience as children. (So if you want your kids to be community-minded later in life, you need to lead by example.)
FOR every person agreeing to volunteer their time to make things happen, there are quite a few parents with an opinion.
THERE’S no such thing as sport without politics, even at the most junior levels.
VERY few matches come to an end in the first year without at least one dad mentioning his own prowess at junior level (the poorer his son is playing, the more it’s likely to come up).
But at least one Olympic controversy will never happen at junior level – and that’s players taking a dive as we’ve seen in those shameful badminton matches.
The kids might throw their handballs, shed the odd tear when they can’t feel their fingers and jump in puddles instead of watching the ball.
But would the mini Bridgy Raiders lie down to let Mt Lofty win? Not on your life.
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