Angry parents

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Play by the Rules is, by its nature, an interactive website. Every few days the team here receives an enquiry from someone involved in grassroots sport looking for advice or help in dealing with an issue. When we aggregated our responses from the start of the year, the issue that seems to be causing the most angst is parental behaviour.

We thought it would be helpful to review the issues that you are most seeking advice on, and give some collective pointers to material that may help, so here is our ‘listicle’ of the top six issues on which Play by the Rules readers have been seeking help and advice:

Number 1 (by a long margin): parental behaviour

Your registration drive has been a success. You have lots of eager children ready to start the new season and their parents are turning up in droves to support them. Everything seems to be progressing well until you discover some parents’ behaviour towards children, umpires and coaches is a little less than supportive. These days such behaviour is not only verbal, but can also be transmitted through social media. Last year Flinders University published research that showed parents’ behaviour had a profound impact on their child’s participation in sport, in some situations leading to the children losing motivation and confidence and immediately disengaging from sport. So what can you do?

Play by the Rules has a number of resources to help, including:

Number 2: junior team selection/age appropriate selection

Forget the stoushes taking place in our nation’s parliament. Any sports administrator knows that navigating the battleground of junior team selection through the advancing armies of emotional children and parents makes our politicians’ antics pale into insignificance. Selection of a sport team may be subjective, but it still needs to be handled objectively and transparently. With that in mind, Play by the Rules offers:

Number 3: taking photographs/videos of children at sport

Attend a children’s sporting event on any given day in Australia and you’re bound to see proud parents, grandparents, carers, relatives and friends taking photographs of children they know — all perfectly legitimate. But if the images are being posted on websites or distributed in publications, that’s where children can be put at risk.

Organisations that are aware of the potential risks and put appropriate measures in place can reduce the potential for images to be misused. Play by the Rules offers advice on measures that clubs and organisations can take as part of their risk management approach:

Number 4: Bullying

Whether it is verbal, social, physical or online, bullying is one of the most destructive behaviours anyone can experience. A 2014 study by Brigham Young University in the United States found that children who were bullied during PE classes or other physical activities were less likely to participate in physical activity one year later. To build a positive culture around your sport and keep kids interested, it is important to stamp out bullying. See the following Play by the Rules resources for some tips on where to start:

Number 5: Corruption/fraud

Unless you have been stuck on a desert island for the past 12 months you would be aware that corruption in sport has become a hot topic following scandals in a number of football codes and cricket, among other sports. The beauty of competition lies in the uncertainty of the result. However, the growth in sports betting and in particular ‘spot fixing’ where anyone can bet on the first person to get a kick, a referee awarding a penalty or an athlete making a turn, can multiply the risk of corruption because it is easier to tamper with individual aspects of a match or event. There is also a growing number of routes for corruption to infiltrate sport (officials, management, medical staff, external selectors et. al.). Grassroots sport is not immune, so Play by The Rules has looked at what one sport in particular is doing to prevent corruption:

Number 6: Discrimination/vilification

Some observers still believe that offensive language and discriminatory behaviour are all ‘part and parcel’ of competition sport. Yet sports are increasingly reacting to such behaviours by issuing breach notices, fines, or specific internal penalties. Soon they may also have to deal with human rights commissions’ processes, with an increasing number of victims seeking to pursue this avenue. So how can sports minimise the risk discrimination and vilification in the first place? Play by the Rules has some answers: