Anyone in sports knows that the competitive environment surrounding sports promotes intense competition.
We have all experienced the overzealous parent that pushes boundaries in their support for their team or child.
Isn’t it ironic that as adults we condemn and prosecute children for bullying in schools, yet we tolerate it from other adults on the soccer field and in the hockey arena? We observe men, and sometimes women, engage in absurd behaviour, such as:
- Yelling at children, children who are referees;
- Scream at opposing coaches;
- Yelling, and screaming at the opposing team players; and
criticizing our own players.
I have once even seen parents that are on the same team get into a fistfight on the sidelines.
Adults who do this are bullies, plain and simple. They are using their power position as adults with some authority to try to intimidate players, coaches, referees, and kids.
But we tolerate it, coaches ignore it if the offending parent’s child is skilled, clubs avoid confronting it, and responsible parents on the sidelines look the other way.
Our kids observe bullying behaviour in adults on the field or at the rink, and they see it occur without consequence. Kids notice when adults do not take action against unacceptable behaviour. They judge us as hypocrites when we lecture them not to tolerate bad behaviour in the schoolyard, yet we as parents tolerate it on the field and in the rink.
We as adults need to lead by example and stand up to adults who bully children. Perhaps this will send a stronger message to children than any of our lectures about how “they” should act. Because in reality, that bullying parent’s child is often expressing bullying behaviour already… because dad does it and the behaviour becomes normalized.
Clubs, associations, coaches, managers, parents, referees, and kids should stand up to adult bullying that occurs in plain view. Our kids are watching our actions more than they listen to our words.
My recommendation is that clubs adopt clear policies on parental behaviour and abuse of officials and kids. Teams and their coaches must be clear that it won’t be tolerated and they must be prepared to lose their best player if the parent is not a good example. If they do not they can be held liable for any damages that might arise if things get out of hand and someone gets hurt
As parents, we might show a little courage and stand up to bullying in our midst, at least before we ask kids to do what we have failed to do ourselves.
Phillip Millar is a lawyer, former Assistant Crown Attorney and Combat Officer in the Canadian Forces who practices in London Ontario. He represents clients injured by forces beyond their control. If you seek counselling of any sort, please do not hesitate to Contact Millars Law.
Contact us: (519) 657-1LAW or Info@millarslaw.com