Bad sports: No place for 'repugnant and ugly parenting' on sidelines

Parents, behave yourselves at your kids' sporting matches.
Parents, behave yourselves at your kids' sporting matches. Photo: Supplied

I cannot believe a 13-year-old junior umpire has been the target of an on-field incident caused by a spectator during an under 11s footy match.

Let that sink in. A spectator, probably the mother of one of the players, could be charged with hitting a young boy who was an official.

This is just appalling, and goes well and truly beyond the ‘ugly parent’ syndrome we have all witnessed on the sideline of children’s sport.

As someone who has been in the shoes of this umpire from a very young age, the amount of abuse hurled at you by over excited and rude parents becomes a weekly ritual.

I don’t know what motivated a 13-year-old boy to join the umpiring ranks and officiate junior football on a Saturday, but today he’s probably wondering why, and might never return to the park.

I took up rugby refereeing at age 12 because a lower back injury crushed my dreams of playing the game that I loved.

I went on to referee all ages and abilities, climbing the ranks of the referees as I grew older in New South Wales before relocating to Western Australia.

No one turns up to watch the referee or the umpire do their thing.

We know the responsibilities we have as officials to facilitate an enjoyable and competitive match played to the laws of the sport.

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I can tell you first hand it’s damn hard to encourage young people to become officials, but as a spectator it’s the best seat in the house.

In this incident did the spectator stop and wonder why the 13-year-old boy decided to become an umpire?

Did she think that in front of all the other 11-year-old players and dozens of parents it would be okay to allegedly strike an umpire and get away with it?

At a minimum the offender must be marched from junior football and never have any input or be allowed to come and watch another match again.

If you strike an umpire you should be struck out of the game for good.

Especially as this involves an adult and the innocent official was a child.

If there are criminal charges then that will be a matter for the police and the courts.

Parents are meant to set the example, but we are hearing of some absolutely appalling and aggressive behaviour from mums and dads towards teachers and principals which cannot be tolerated.

Recently a Byron Bay teacher was stabbed by the mother of one his students in an unprovoked attack.

But back to the sidelines of children’s sport.

There is a push from the state’s sport department to create ‘silent sidelines’.

‘Silent sidelines’ is an initiative to encourage all spectators’ commentary to be positive.

I ridiculed this on 6PR earlier this year because we don’t want to go to the extreme where everyone becomes so precious and receives a participation certificate.

Sport builds resilience. It builds mateship. It builds camaraderie and you learn to celebrate victories and deal with accepting defeat.

We should all be taught to accept the umpire’s decision and treat him or her with respect.

That doesn’t just apply to players and coaches, but for spectators as well.

The weekend’s example of ugly parenting is extreme. It is repugnant.

This cannot ever be repeated on the sidelines of junior sport.

Sadly it will, but the administrators of the code must send life bans to protect their own officials and set an example to other spectators.

Next time you’re on the sideline remember why you’re there and what you hope your loved one gets out of it because that will be the same for the boy or the girl with the whistle in their mouth.

Be a good sport.

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