By Paul Madden
Imagine being a 9-year-old again, you just started a team sport a few months ago. You’ve made new friends and are really enjoying trainings but when it comes to matches, you would rather stay at home. Matches make you feel under pressure, humiliated and embarrassed.
This unfortunately is how a lot of children feel nowadays. The behaviour of people on the side line of children’s matches can have a major impact on their participation and enjoyment of the sport. We must let the children play the game, learn to make mistakes and most importantly have fun. Parents sometimes see the potential in their child and treat them like professionals.
Step 1- Dont Criticise, Creative a Positive Culture
According to playbytherules.net.au studies show that “75% of children who participated in organised sport up to the age of 16 had been criticised for their performance, had been shouted or sworn at or had been embarrassed or humiliated by a coach, parent, peer or sports administrator”.
NGB’s and Sporting organisations have recognised this and have come up with some great initiatives which aim to remind parents, spectators and coaches that their role is to encourage fun, fair play and a safe environment for all involved. Promoting the development of skills as opposed to winning at all costs.
To name a few, “Play Your Part, Let Them Play” campaign which aims to remind parents why children play the sport and letting children enjoy the game, without criticism, expectations or harm.
Silent Sideline was another great incentive which looked at having underage games played in complete silence. Unless you are a coach or referee, try and stay quiet because for everyone, not just children, life in general is not much fun when people scream & shout at you the whole time.
Step 2- Make the Environment Fun, Friendly and Safe
Anne Marie Hughes IRFU Spirit of Rugby Programme Manager tells us that “Sport and physical activity are fundamental to children’s’ development. Research has shown that those involved in sport and physical activity achieve high grades, have higher levels of self-esteem and can have a better capacity to deal with adversity”.
With this in mind, we should also make sure children are playing sport because they want to, not because they feel under pressure to do. This can also be another reason kid’s do not enjoy it anymore and end up dropping out of sport.
Step 3- Volunteer your time – walk in the shoes of those who volunteer at the club to understand the level of commitment involved
Children are not always the main point of criticism at underage games, earlier this week seen a referee of an underage league game quit due to abuse received from the side line. According to the Irish Times, the underage referee said the man ‘clenched a fist’ and ‘made a striking motion in my direction”. This type of behaviour should not be tolerated especially at underage level.
The Irish Mirror tells us about a letter written by an anonymous volunteer coach to kid’s parents. In this he speaks about the pressures he feels from backseat coaches on the side lines. One comment that stands out a lot is – “I just wish sometime those who don’t choose to volunteer their time would leave the coaching to the few of us who do.”
This letter is a prime example of why clubs sometimes struggle to keep their volunteers. It needs to be noted that volunteers in all roles should be supported, encouraged and most importantly respected. Without volunteers, there would be no matches and no club.
Clubforce would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to all club volunteers globally for all that you do. If you’re a club volunteer and interested in finding out how Clubforce can help your club, get in touch today on +353-91-506048 or fill in the form below.