By Patrick Wood
A host of Australian sports stars have thrown their voices behind a new campaign to stamp out poor sideline behaviour that is turning kids away from weekend games.
The Let Kids Be Kids initiative, part-led by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), includes videos and personal testimonies, and is aimed at parents who are abusive or overly negative at junior sports matches.
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou is one of the high-profile people to share a story of how sideline issues affected them as children.
“We must have been 10 or 11 and the parents started arguing and fighting amongst each other,” he says in a video to be rolled out with the campaign.
“Both teams just huddled together in the centre circle, each of us frightened.
“The people arguing and fighting outside the field forgot why they were there, because why they were there was their kids, and their kids were scared and huddled together.”
Postecoglou is joined by a number of identities from across the sporting world, including cricketers Usman Khawaja and Ellyse Perry, AFL footballer Nick dal Santo, rugby league player Sam Thaiday, and netballer Caitlin Thwaites.
It builds on similar initiatives in the US and UK that attempt to stop not just abuse, but also derogatory or overly critical comments that detract from children’s fun.
It comes just two months after the ASC’s inaugural AusPlay report found participation in junior sports starts to decline rapidly when kids reach 11 years old.
Thwaites said poor sideline behaviour could be a contributing factor.
“If it is not enjoyable and they are feeling that pressure I think at that young age for kids it just translates into not enjoying it and not having fun,” she told ABC News Breakfast.
Thwaites said this did not just mean parents yelling at players, but also trying to be overly instructional and focusing too much on winning.