The nine things your child definitely notices when you watch sport with them.

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation
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I don’t remember the first time I watched a game of football, I would have been a baby probably. My grandmother loved to watch it and would spend quite a bit of time explaining the rules to me and my brother. Watching the football was about getting together as a family and sharing the common goal of cheering on our team.

It was a lot of fun, and I cherished that time with my grandmother. There’s nothing better than introducing new fans to the game, melding small minds into becoming supporters of your own favourite team.

But when you watch sport with your kids (or your nieces and nephews, or your friends’ kids) they’re learning about more than just how to apply the offside rule. And a lot of the learning is coming directly from you, not the game.

1. How to handle defeat.

This is probably the biggest one, and you would be surprised how much of a kid’s attitude to losing is really drawn from the reactions of the people around them, not the reactions of the team on the field.

If you get angry, or blame the other side, or blame the referees, or don’t accept the result with grace and good humour, that’s going to be how a child watching you will think is the way to react when things don’t go your way.

2. How to celebrate a win.

Again, if you want a smug, gloating, insufferable winner in the family, by all means behave like that when your team wins. It’s fun to win, it makes you feel good, but for every person celebrating a win, there’s one ruing a loss. Teach your kids to have a bit of empathy, enjoy the success but don’t get cocky about it. Next week could be a very different story.

"Enjoy the success but don't get cocky about it." Image: Supplied.

3. That winning is not just about the game.

One thing that's become more and more ubiquitous over the years is the linking of sports and gambling. You can't watch a football match on TV without being bombarded with odds, and ever-easier ways to bet on everything from who will win, to who will make an unforced error first. In this environment, winning becomes about more than the scoreboard, and if you're watching the betting market, you can bet your kids are too.


4. Gambling is a fun and normal part of sport.

Think about it, if you are watching the odds as much as the scoreboard, or talking about how much you won or lost, then kids watching with you are going to think that's part of the experience of being a supporter. I've heard people say "It doesn't mean as much if you don't have money riding on it" which is a pretty terrible message to be telegraphing to children. And yes, they are listening. They are always listening. Did you know that 75 per cent of kids who watch sport think gambling is a normal part of it? 75 per cent.

5. Playing by the rules puts you ahead.

This is one of those great messages that sport, and you, can really easily teach the kids who are watching with you about the benefits of doing the right thing. Of course, this one can backfire, if you are constantly berating the umpire when they make decisions that go against your team, you might end up teaching attentive little watchers the system is stacked against them. (Perhaps see points one and two for a refresher here.)

"Teach your kids the benefits of doing the right thing." Image: iStock.

6. For sport to matter the stakes have to be higher than just the game.

Maybe it starts with them noticing you having a "friendly wager" with a mate over who's team will win, and that turns into a few bets on scores and a larger bet on the game, but no matter what kind of gambling you bring along to watching the game, a kid is going to notice that your enjoyment is linked not just to how well your team is doing, but how well you are doing.

7. Swearing.

Honestly, this is either a problem you care about, or it's not. Some parents don't want their kids to hear swear words at all, others swear freely in front of them, but either way, I don't think I've sat through a single game of footy without saying something blue. (Sorry Mum and Dad.) So spending couch time watching the game is probably where your kids are picking up those unfortunately well-timed-for-max-embarrassment f-bombs.


8. Being part of something bigger than you is fun.

Look not to get all sentimental on you or anything, but being a part of sport, as a player in a team, or as a supporter, gives you a real sense of community and an easy way to instantly relate to so many people. It's like knowing a foreign language. When you include your kids in that community, they are building a special bond with you, and everyone else who loves that sport just as much as you do.

"Being a part of sport gives you a real sense of community." Image: iStock.

9. This is how you belong to a team.

Of course, the flipside to being part of something bigger is that wanting to belong will make your kids really sit up and pay attention to the "rules" of being part of it. Which is why how you react to wins and losses, and how you talk about the rulings of referees and umpires matters. It's also why you should be careful not to make a link between betting and belonging. Because you don't have to have a wager to be a sports fan, and kids should know that upfront.

There's no denying that gambling is risky, and that it's become a very large part of our sporting culture. Keeping it out of the picture when you're watching sport with your kids isn't easy, but being honest about the downfalls and remembering not to glorify it when little ears are listening are important steps to ensuring your kids have a healthy relationship with a not-so-healthy habit.

What sports do your family love watching together?

This post was brought to you with thanks to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation