Wednesday 10 October 2012

Back off, pushy sport parents

On the news this morning they were talking about how parents have been banned from children’s school football matches. And, you know what?  I’m not surprised.  When James used to play football (not at school but at the local club) I was often appalled, nay disgusted, at the behaviour of parents on the touchline.  These were children of…what?  Seven? Eight?  And parents were bawling and screaming; yelling at their own kids to be more aggressive; taunting other kids when they lost the ball or missed a goal; bawling out the ref for ‘lousy decisions.’  

It was revolting.  It wasn’t supporting; it was mean…like bear baiting. 

And it’s not just me being a wussy woman who doesn't understand sport - Adrian was horrified too. In fact, both of us were mightily relieved when James decided football wasn’t for him and he took himself off to play rugby instead.

Not saying, of course, that rugby parents are all saints but there is usually a bit more of a sense of ‘fair play’.  People still yell and jump around and get overexcited.  But generally you clap and nod (albeit with a pursed lip) when there’s an amazing run or an awesome tackle from the opposing side.

The other day at school I watched my boy taken down in a quite spectacular fashion (which will have hurt his pride, as he’s usually the one who does the taking down) and muttered ‘Oh bloody good tackle’.  
The woman walking past stopped and smiled. ‘That’s my son,’ she said proudly. 
‘And that’s mine, underneath him, eating mud,’ I said with a smile.  
‘Oh god, I’m sorry,’ she said.
‘Nah,’ I demurred. ‘That was one awesome tackle.’  
She smiled again. ‘Well, he’ll be pleased.  Last time he played your side, he broke his arm, so it’s always going to be a bit of a grudge match.’  
And we chatted a bit and watched the game, and applauded good work on both sides.

But then, as Adrian often says, I don’t *get* sport.  Sure I support my son’s side; sure I want them to win but nah, I don’t get the screaming and yelling. Apart from anything else, the boys simply can’t hear.  I went through a phase of trying to make an effort, to enter in the spirit of it.  Taking my hint from the people around me, I’d yell out, randomly, ‘Legs! LEGS!’ or ‘Heave!’ or ‘Ruck over!’  But James said, pityingly, after the match. ‘Mum, just stop it, huh?  We can’t hear you. We don’t need your advice. And, frankly, you look a bit nuts when you jump around.’
Fair enough. 

So really, parents.  Stop it already. Get a grip. Think of your children and put them before your pride.  I think the main problem is that parents (particularly the men) live vicariously through their children. Listening to Adrian talk, you’d think he had had an illustrious career as an All Black.  He verges on the obsessive when it comes to rugby, picking apart the team, each match, the opposition.  It’s great, to a point – it shows he’s interested, that he cares. But it can become too much and sometimes I see James' head go down. ‘Sometimes I just want to play, to enjoy playing,’ he says with a resigned sigh.

And that’s the bottom line, isn’t it?  Yes, sport is competitive but it’s also supposed to be fun, to be enjoyable. When parents push and yell and degrade, that’s not fun any more.  Is it?    


Irene said...

I would have disliked it very much if my parents had come to my athletc games and had stood shouting at me on the sidelines. I don't think it would have made me perform better. I did just fine without that sort of pressure. It was more than anything a fun day out for me.

Exmoorjane said...

@Irene - when I was at school, I don't remember parents coming to things at all...but then again, maybe because I never played in a team!

I think it's great for parents to go to support their children - just be 'supportive'... :)

So you were/are an athlete? :)

Lisa Scullard said...

I had no idea it was so bad. Being a home-schooling mum, mine hasn't done team sports for a long time. But I'd be horrified if I saw that sort of behaviour from adults at a children's game. I'm on the side of the youngsters - they want to go out and play, and spend time with their peers. There's nothing worse than having a pushy or embarrassing parent - whatever age you are :)

Exmoorjane said...

@Lisa - oh yeah. One school has actually banned parents! Others have to put them behind fences. Unbelievable huh?

My son loves me watching - he just doesn't want me shouting. :)

String said...

The only solution is to get all those yelling parents together and have them face off in a match... :-) I like solo sports personally, just not into the intensity, but having had a semi-pro American footballer for an ex-husband, I can verify that sometimes the 'need' to play can negatively impact others.

Exmoorjane said...

@String - hey! Two connections in a day, huh? :) Great idea!
I'm with you - team sports freak me out. Too much expectation. I even get nervous playing squash. :D

Sarah Blackburn said...

It's not just men who live through their kids activities. There is a special circle of hell for the ballet mums, skating mums and a few others I met through my daughters' activities. That is, when I was actually around to go and watch them. "Get a job!" I wanted to say to them.

Irene said...

I ran the shorter distances and also did the long jump and was pretty good. I passed the genes on to my daughter and grandson who were and are successes in their own time.

Zoë said...

I played in all the school teams, even managed county level at a couple of things. Later when it was all about 3 day eventing I went on to compete too.

My parents didn't attend a single match or event.

They didn't attend when I got into the school play 'The Government Inspector'.

I am not sure it is just parents who are aggressive. self serving, selfish and competitive.

I think the whole of society is this way, and to be honest, I think that compassion, gamesmanship, and good manners for the most part have been resigned to the archives of history.

My 2p worth

Cait O'Connor said...

I've heard about these really badly behaved football parents from other people. Such a shame because sport and all the good aspects of it is good for many boys.

Rob-bear said...

So glad you had that delightful chat with the other lad's mum. Makes the game time pass a bit. And good for James wanting to play for the fun of it.

And BOO at the parents who get over-involved in their childrens' games. Let the kids play, drat you!

Ross Mountney said...

Dead right!

Jobo Pooks said...

I remember when my son played footy and some of the parents who treated it like life and death. Lost count of the number of times I said to them "They're kids and it's a game FFS"