parent opinion

'Last weekend, thousands of families stood in silence on sporting sidelines. And I'm grateful.'

Last month, Football Brisbane made an announcement that got parents talking; which is sort of ironic, considering the nature of what they said.

The organisation, which supports local junior clubs, decided that Saturday, August 10, would be a ‘Silent Saturday’ for every game.

No, this didn’t mean the kids couldn’t speak during the game – it meant the parents and spectators couldn’t.

Football Brisbane explained on their Facebook page:

“The main purpose of Silent Saturday is to let our young players play and have fun without worrying about how their performance is affecting the adults on the sidelines.

“This applies equally to our Referees and Game Leaders who should be able to make decisions without worrying about verbal questioning.

“Clapping is allowed! Sit back and enjoy watching the kids play.”

It was an, ahem, game decision – and in the context of the recent Adam Goodes’ documentary The Final Quarter, which demonstrated how spectators verbalising displeasure drove Goodes to eventually leave the game, it makes absolute sense.

Watch the trailer for The Final Quarter below. Post continues after the video:

‘Sideline suggestions’ directed towards players, coaches, and referees, has been an ongoing issue in children’s sport, and it was always going to take a bold move to effect change.

But not everyone saw it like that – and their disagreement was clear in the comments section:

“‘Silent Saturday’ sounds a bit ridiculous. We aren’t mourning the loss of anyone.”

“Another fine example of the nanny state we are creating in Australia. Political correctness done incorrectly!”

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“It’s bloody Australian to cheer! Just ban those who aren’t behaving like true Australians!”

“It’s a competition and people should cheer and even criticise bad decisions. Accountability is appropriate and beneficial…I don’t agree with this approach to regulating people’s behaviour. Reconsider this ridiculous strategy!”

Okay, so some didn’t like the idea of being censored; of Football Brisbane “regulating people’s behaviour”.

Sideline suggestions build resilience, some might think. But may I suggest there are more constructive ways to build resilience than, for example, calling out to a 10-year-old who’s playing a game: “Argh, you shouldn’t have missed that!”

Yes, a parent called that out to my son a couple of years ago – and he heard it, as was intended. Not exactly helpful when it’s bleeding obvious my kid already knew he’d missed something.

Not exactly helpful when it’s yelled out across a field by the dad of a team mate in front of everyone present.

That public mistake-calling isn’t helpful; it’s humiliating.

Sideline input from adults is not necessary. It’s not resilience-building. And we shouldn’t continue to normalise it.

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Brisbane Football’s decision about Silent Saturday may feel like censorship, but it certainly made more people think about the problem: which is essentially a lack of respect.

So, how did it work out?

One dad was bereft. “That was the most appalling game I have ever watched, no encouragement from anyone, and some random claps,” he wrote on Facebook.

“It was like sitting in a mortuary,” he added, making it clear he has never in fact sat in a mortuary.

Another commented, “Zero atmosphere… Hang your heads in shame Football Brisbane.”

But other parents, whose kids have been on the receiving end of abuse, gave different feedback; notably from their kids’ perspectives.

One mother wrote after her son’s game on the weekend, “Having my 13-year-old son being a referee, he quite often cops adults’ abuse towards his calls.

“Those are the ones who have caused this, and I don’t know how any adult can abuse a club child referee.”

Another mum said, “I think Silent Saturday has been a success. My son enjoyed playing without others yelling at him to pass the ball, run faster.

“My daughter, a new young ref, managed to referee two games with no abuse from coaches or parents. Normally this happens every week. She enjoyed it so much more and felt she did a better job.

“Well done for trying to change the culture.”

Essentially, that’s all Silent Saturday was about. Changing the culture for the benefit of the kids.

As one comment concluded, “It’s a step in the right direction.”

What do you think of ‘Silent Saturdays’? Tell us in a comment below.


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