The worst thing about kids' sport.








“Snatch it Sophie, snatch it!”

Sorry, did that parent just say “Snatch it?”

Surely she meant “Catch it Sophie, catch it!”?

It was a chilly Saturday morning at the netball courts of north Sydney and it was possible that my inner ear had frozen into stasis. Or perhaps it was premature rigor mortis setting in, it really was damn cold. I thought I must have heard wrong.

But there it was again, “Snatch it Sophie, pull it, PULL IT!” shouted the mummy as her daughter and a girl from the opposing team each held onto the ball tightly, both eyeing the under-aged umpire nervously. Or were they eyeing Scary Netball Mummy fearfully? I was certainly afraid. I wanted to snatch my child (and hide in a warm bed); it was all a little too early in the morning for such hardcore parental “guidance”.

Scary Netball Mummy is not alone at our local netball association. There is also Scary Netball Daddy. I know it’s not politically correct to say this but my heart sinks when I realise we’re playing his daughter’s team. I just haven’t had enough coffee by 8am to get through his impersonation of Al Pacino in an NFL block buster.

There’s the excoriating tone, the bullish pacing and the heated huffing as he shouts at Heidi “Focus Heidi, focus! Eyes on the ball! Get in there. GET IN THERE!”

Heidi’s coach recently saw my concerned expression during a game and tried to reassure me, saying that Heidi’s father just wanted her to try her best. I want Heidi to try her best too; I just don’t want her to have daddy issues and a steroid addiction by the time she reaches the U13s.

I’m also not convinced that shouting certain things in certain ways is actually helpful to our children.

I’m also not convinced that shouting certain things in certain ways is actually helpful to our children. I think there’s a difference between constructive guidance and “Use your elbows!”

I should have known this was coming. At the start of the season, our pint-sized professional ball droppers graduated from the sheltered world of Netta (a relaxed game for the littlies) to the harsher world of netball (a proper game, real rules). I remember hearing a coach/mother say to her team of fresh-faced 8 year olds “This is netball now girls, we’re not in Netta anymore. Remember that.”

I do remember that, and the netball association’s rule that prohibits parents from yelling at their children from the sidelines. I have been known to break this rule, shouting (sweetly, honestly) at my daughter “No darling, no, run the other way. The other way!”  I’m yet to yell “Snatch it, pull it!” but my time may come.

I know I’ve thought it, just quietly.  There’s a difference between thinking it and saying it, but maybe I too am on a slippery slope and I’m not that far away from accessing (or unleashing) my inner-Al Pacino. For my daughter’s sake, I certainly hope not!

Shankari Chandran is a recent returner after ten years in London. Formerly a social justice lawyer, Shankari chronicles the day-to-day of her family’s return on her blog.

Have you ever encountered parents who take their kids’ sporting activities a little too seriously?

What is the worst thing you’ve heard parents yell at their kids from the sporting sidelines? Is it helpful or harmful?