My sister was recently introduced to junior hockey in an initiation of fire, or rather that should be sleet and gale force winds! She willingly accepted the challenge of being actively involved as a caregiver and supporter during the week long SAPSASA hockey program on the SA Primary School Sports calendar. The carnival was held in metropolitan Adelaide.
I am so blessed to have a sister who was willing and able to perform the highly important and vital role of “hockey mum.” Corinna capably stepped-up during the days my work prevented me being on the sidelines.
The important role doesn’t have a specific list of tasks or duties, but is a role which is shaped by events on any given day. The duties can include, but are not limited to; accommodation and transport provider, meal planner and cook, first-aider, barracker, launderer of sodden mud and grass stained attire and so much more.
There is significant effort which goes into organising these events and more so in getting the young boys and girls (and often their siblings) to the events. I am sure the challenge is considerable for the metropolitan based families but for those based in the regions the tyranny of distance and the cost associated with participation means that some children and their families miss the opportunity to participate at this level.
Annually, about 4.5 million Australians are involved in organised sport and physical activity (which means roughly 18 million are not). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) sport and physical recreation organisations attracted the largest number of volunteers with 2.3 million people (14% of the adult population) in 2010.
Of the 2.3 million sport and physical recreation volunteers, nearly half (961,800 or 42%) of the volunteers came from couple families with dependents. This was followed by 39% (879,000) of sport and physical recreation volunteers living in couple families with no children aged less than 15 years.
As a ‘volunteer’ and in her capacity as ‘hockey mum’, Corinna dutifully phoned through progress reports each day and kept me up to date with detailed accounts and observations of each match.
Corinna recounted the near misses, the triumphant goals and the high level of comradery and sportsmanship displayed by the team and their opponents. Corinna also spoke, with subdued horror, of the ‘ugly’ side of children’s sport. Regretfully, Corinna was introduced to ‘ugly parent syndrome’.
The parents to which this label is affixed are, at best, described as having has no respect for their offspring; the code of the game; the umpire; for respectful behaviour from the sidelines and it would seem, no self-respect.
In 2013 a Flinders University study on 'ugly parents’ syndrome' demonstrated the negative impact inappropriate parental behaviours have on young people’s interest in playing sport. Not surprisingly the research found that children did not prosper under these conditions and lost motivation. This loss of motivation was often the trigger for the young people wanting to discontinue their involvement in sport.
I am the first to admit that Corinna’s participation from the sidelines was enthusiastic, but in an encouraging and ‘coaching’ type of way. She was loud, passionate and reassuring. She went from being mostly inexperienced about the rules to somewhat of a side-line expert of what constituted a good call and not-so.
Notably, she also quickly learned each of the boys names on ‘her’ team and made an effort to engage with them and their parents, either before or after each match.
Importantly though, she captured and called some of the 'ugly' behaviour she observed. This behaviour was not just from over-enthusiastic parents and caregivers but also from participants.
It’s not OK to swear at an umpire from the sidelines or from the field. It is not OK to deliberately engage in risky play and it is definitely not OK to take a swipe, verbal or otherwise, at the coach or the opposition.
We should be nurturing our kids on the sporting fields. We should be displaying behaviour that they can mirror and we should absolutely do everything thing we can to ensure that they happily want to continue to participate in sport.
Being able to be involved in sports at any level is such a gift. Whether you are a mum, a dad, coach, player, umpire or one of thousands of volunteers, you are contributing to our amazing sporting heritage and culture. Let’s ensure that what you are contributing and instilling is positive.
You can never be sure who is watching and whom you might be inspiring; and that in itself should be motivation enough to be a good sport.
For more information about the ‘Fair Enough’ campaign and an opinion I share, visit these links.