Monday, June 05, 2006

Ugly Parent Syndrome

Ugly parents have kept their heads down lately. Fewer appearances in court and fewer appalling scenes on TV could lead to the conclusion that all is rosy on the chilly junior sidelines of winter sport in my fair state. Sadly, this is not the case.
Ugly parent syndrome has morphed. It does not appear often in a court-appearance, black-eye kind of way: these are the sporting shames that make headlines and provide fodder for trashy current affairs shows. The problem has become more sinister and more common than that.
A mum makes a personal, racist snipe to a linesman when he hovers close enough to hear.
A dad refuses to applaud spectacular play from the opposition. A parent mutters post-match about lousy calls and being robbed. Another scowls at the opposition coach.
On the sport fields and courts, particularly in the teenage groupings when childhood ambitions must become reality or fade forever, there is a level of parent and player anger, frustration and crankiness not seen previously. While most players put on their uniforms and roll up for their team simply because they love to play, the pall of bad sportsmanship is palpable and affects everyone. Too often, filthy language and rude gestures are directed at umpires and referees, and at junior level that can be a boy or girl of 14 years. Does the match fee many refs receive pay for the misery such confrontations bring? I seriously doubt it.
All sports have codes of conduct for parents as well as players. It was an idea pioneered by the Brisbane junior football leauge a decade-and-a-half ago and has been adopted nationally. That football code is closest to winning the war against ugly parents and poor sportsmanship, perhaps because it has been nipping sideline abuse in the bud for the longest. Parents have been forced to sign yearly codes of conduct for more than a decade. They must attend a behaviour expectation course before their treasures take to the field if they are to yahoo and yippee on the sidelines. Parents can be banned from matches. Unruly players can be deregistered. Ground marshals were brought in to stand on bad behaviour before the biffing began and their presence is working. Clearly indicating to parents that they cannot live out their sporting fantasy through their children translates to better behaviour from the kids, and has contributed to the massive increase in junior players signing on. Parents must get serious about rediscovering the fun a child's sport can bring – before alarm bells become the full-time siren for junior sport as we know it.

till next time, Michelle.


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