Surviving the Sidelines

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a parent is watching our kids participate in sports. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the worst thanks to overzealous spectators, potty-mouth parents, megalomaniac managers and cranky coaches.

We all know it’s tough. Just take a turn at coaching, managing, subbing (there’s a nightmare) and you’ll gain a healthy new respect for the patience required. But while I applaud the thousands of volunteers who give up their time to help kids develop their skills, hone their physical fitness and experience sports, I simply can’t stomach the over the top antics of some of those we entrust our children’s sense of self worth to.

I’m not sure what’s going on but I have sneaking suspicion there’s a group of people living their own defunct sporting dreams vicariously through their kids. That’s the only reason I can come up with for some of the negative role modelling that goes on.

Over the years I’ve supported our kids at the hockey turf, netball courts, basketball courts, touch, futsal, football and rugby sidelines, on the beach, at the pool and at the track. And sadly, I’ve seen crappy behaviour everywhere.

Currently, it’s the oval ball that takes most of our time. I don’t know if it’s because rugby is our national sport but it seems to bring out the best and the worst in people.

There’s a cute wee poem doing the rounds on Facebook about a young boy heckled by another parent on the sideline after dropping a ball – you’ve probably seen it. And we can probably all relate to it.

I’m not sure what gives people the right to think it’s okay to publicly chastise a child for fumbling a ball or to yell out “toughen up buttercup” after their own child scrapes his legs on a frost-bitten Dunedin rugby field. Seriously, when is the last time you put on your shorts in July and rolled around in the frost for fun?

I understand that most of the people volunteering to help out kids are just that – volunteers – and the clubs can’t function without them. But as a teacher, I’m acutely aware of how children should and shouldn’t be spoken to. Which words can cut like a knife and destroy self- confidence and which words build them and bring out their potential.

Seeing a grown man make your child cry by swearing at them is not nice. In fact it tends to bring out the lioness in me. For busy mums, downtime with our kids is precious. It’s important for our well being that going to sports together is something to look forward to rather than dread.

So here’s a few simple tips I have for surviving the sidelines:

  • Focus on your own kids. Notice their skills. Praise them when they do well, for them.
  • Be realisitic. There are only 20 odd All Blacks. They won’t all make the squad.
  • Teach them to win and loose with humility. It’s a life lesson.
  • No put downs. Don’t bad mouth other players/coaches/managers. If you have a problem, deal with adults in an adult fashion. It’s what grown ups do and it’s more likely to get a positive result.
  • Keep perspective. It’s a game. They are children. It is not the World Cup.
  • Encourage your child to be team player. Play as a team, win or lose as a team.
  • Celebrate success. Having said that, if other team members do well, congratulate them.
  • Thank the positive role models. They do exist and they need to hear it.
  • Ignore the idiots. Unless they make your kids cry, then release the lioness (seriously, see below 😉 )

And when really bad stuff happens, your club has a code of conduct. Use it. Raise your concerns with management, refer to the code. Their response will confirm it you have the right fit with the club in terms of your own values and ethics.


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