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Office of Sport

Kids Call Time Out on Bad Sideline Behaviour

Girl Playing Hockey

Sporting passion is ingrained in the Australian way of life. It doesn’t matter whether we’re watching our Olympians take on the world, the Blues trouncing the Maroons, or Under 11s netball on the weekend, Aussies love sport and everything that goes along with it. 

But when does that passion go too far? Most people will no doubt have an anecdote to share about a time when they’ve witnessed or been subject to poor spectator behaviour on the sidelines. A few may even be guilty of some bad behaviour themselves.

Negative comments, aggressive behaviour and poor sportsmanship are becoming commonplace every weekend at junior sport across the country, and the detrimental effects it is having on our kids can be serious and lasting. 

A recent study published by the University of South Australia on sideline behaviour at junior sport found that 69% of junior athletes aged from 12-17yo had reported some form of negative behaviour from their parents on the sidelines.  

It also found that poor parent behaviour such as being overly critical, second guessing the officials or yelling abuse was linked to greater antisocial behaviours in their children, and side-effects such as increased sadness and reduced confidence.

Annie Flack is a young hockey player and umpire in South Sydney who has represented both NSW and Australia since taking up the sport at a young age. She has been on the receiving end of poor spectator behaviour a number of times and admits it has had a significant impact on her performance in some games. 

“I have been abused by spectators on the sideline before, and it can badly affect the way I play,” says Annie. “I do try to block it out and even ask them to stop, but sometimes they don’t and its pretty poor form. It’s really upsetting when it happens, and I get frustrated and angry.”

As an umpire, Annie has also been subjected to negative comments, yelling and intimidation. 

“Umpires get treated pretty badly by parents and spectators, and it can really affect your self-esteem,” she says. “Sometimes there’s so much pressure on you from the crowd, it can make you think about why you even bother to umpire.”

She also confides that she has considered giving away the sport completely due to some of the criticism she has received from the sidelines.

“I love playing hockey because of the happiness it brings to me and the friendships I make, but last year some comments I received from people really made think about quitting. 

“I’m lucky my parents gave me support and reminded me about how much passion I have for hockey and how upset I would be without it.”

Annie has one piece of advice for those on the sidelines at junior sport. 

“Just imagine if that was your child on the field, and how you would feel if another parent or coach said awful things to them,” she says.

“I can understand that parents and other people can get frustrated, but some of the things you say to kids when they are just trying to have a good time with their friends kills the love we have for the sport. Just stop saying things and let us play.”

Shoosh For Kids is an ongoing campaign from the Office of Sport, in collaboration with State Sporting Organisations and local grassroots clubs and associations, that encourages positive sideline behaviour at junior sport. 

The message of the campaign is simple – if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all! 

Local grassroots clubs and associations across NSW are encouraged to sign up as campaign partners and spread the Shoosh messaging to their members and spectators throughout the month of May. Campaign partners receive access to a free resource library full of assets such as social tiles, posters and other digital content that can be used for promotion. 

To find out more, or to sign up as a partner, visit our Shoosh For Kids webpage

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