On Sunday morning my husband Kevin and I were preparing for the day ahead. Deciding who was going where with which kid were the main points of discussion. When it came to taking our daughter Tamsyn to basketball we both reflected on the energy that would take. While we love watching Tamsyn play we agreed the overall experience can at times be stressful and draining.
Kev’s frustrations come from his belief the kids could gain so much more if coached well. Sitting on the sidelines watching as the coach fails to give the kids useful direction is for Kev very stressful. His desire to see each kid grow and be at his or her best is at the heart of why Kev feels the frustrations he does. For me it’s the competitive nature of sport that I find draining. I struggle with the inflated importance often placed on winning and the aggressive behaviours some people therefore bring to playing, coaching and watching sport.
I find it very frustrating to be surrounded by people who are overly focused on the scoreboard rather than on the more important benefits kids are able to gain from playing sport. It is especially upsetting to see the spirit and development of children adversely impacted as a consequence of poor behaviours from adults. Of particular concern to me is the ‘ugly parent syndrome’ that is appears to be alive and well.
Aggressive behaviours from some parents at kids sporting events are appalling. Some yell and scream objections, complaints and accusations while others engage in attitude-fueled conversations with people around them. I’ve heard personal criticisms directed toward young kids, accusations of cheating and incompetence hurled at teenage referees and many more ridiculous complaints from parents and other supporters at basketball and other kids sports events.
There are so many benefits to be gained from playing sport if the environment in which it is played is a healthy one. Good health and fitness, learning to work as a part of a team, and personal development such as courage, discipline and resilience are all benefits of playing sport attainable when the culture of a sport and club is a positive one. We need to redefine winning and place greater value on these aspects of sport that allow children to learn, grow and have fun.
Anyone interacting with children through sport needs to take responsibility for creating positive environments in which kids can benefit and thrive. Its heart breaking to watch young kids impacted by the disappointment and anger people spew in their direction. Everything you say or do must be aimed at having a positive impact on the confidence and sense of self worth of everyone involved. Unless you are willing to be kind and respectful to every child, on both sides of the competition, then stay away or say nothing at all.
It’s important to encourage children to strive to be the best possible version of themselves but not as the expense of their wellbeing. Placing unreasonable expectations and pressure on kids to ‘win’ is never good for their development nor happiness. Help kids to understand what they are both doing well and how they can improve. Never rob them of the opportunity to know the truth about how they need to improve, but share these insights with respect and sensitivity.