‘Deplorable’ act at 6yo netball game
I'M NOT sure there's ever an acceptable time to 'boo' - but I would think a six-year-old's netball game could possibly be the least appropriate place on the planet.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened at my middle daughter's Saturday netball game recently, when parents of the opposing team were loudly and over enthusiastically booing when our littlies scored a goal.
If that wasn't bad enough, when their team scored a goal, they cheered as though they'd just won Gold at the Olympics.
They hovered on the court - literally in the goal circle - yelling at their team to 'GET IN THE GAME' and 'don't you know what GOAL KEEPER MEANS! GET IN THERE! NOW!'
They were rude. Aggressive. Over the top. Sadly, they were everything you don't want your children to be.
It was one of the most deplorable displays of parents behaving badly I've ever witnessed. And we weren't the only ones who noticed.
The looks on our little girl's faces when they heard the booing were heartbreaking. They were shocked. Sad. Confused. Literally gobsmacked - as were we.
Parenting is a tough gig these days, I understand that. We are constantly being bombarded with the right way to make school lunches, how our children should act, what they should be wearing and how well they should be faring at school.
But beyond all that, we need to go back to basics. Like right back. And the best, and most natural thing we can teach our kids is to be good humans. To be someone who has empathy for others. Someone who is compassionate and caring. Someone who cares about how others feel.
The only way we can make sure that happens is by leading by example. Showing our children what it means to be a good person.
Bullying them on the court, booing the other team, making their own players feel bad about a fumbled pass or unsuccessful goal, is only going to breed a generation of highly competitive, unhappy teenagers who are bad sports.
And that's the last thing our kids need. Isn't growing up hard enough?
In the US, parents behaving badly has been labelled a 'youth sports crisis'. Think fans hitting referees, parents swearing at coaches - a torrent of verbal, physical and mental abuse on our sidelines.
What we witnessed was grassroots - the very ugly side of parents living vicariously through their children, ruining a perfectly sunny and otherwise happy Saturday morning. But they are six. It's only going to get worse, and I shudder to imagine how.
There have been so many complaints about parent behaviour that the netball association got on the front foot and called for a 'be nice' round. The call to action came after undesirable behaviour came to an unacceptable level, with parents told to keep things in perspective.
"The undesirable behaviour is on multiple levels - players being unkind to their opposition while on the court, parents loudly criticising an umpire, parents/coaches yelling so loudly that the umpire can't be heard, parents/coaches shouting multiple instructions at players so they can't concentrate, spectators not acknowledging both teams efforts," the association said in a letter to parents.
"Win, lose or draw please instruct your girls to speak kindly to their opponents. "We do not wish to hear any nastiness or teasing or criticism.
"Please lead by example with your sideline commentary - negativity and rudeness will not be tolerated."
It's a game. For school kids. It's about having fun, learning to work as a team and being shown how in netball, every player has a roll - every player contributes.
Someone very wise once told me - in a world where you can be anything, be kind. Kindness should always win, no matter what the score is.
Let's ban the boo - it should play no part in sport, and has no right to ruin our children's Saturdays.
Lisa Mayoh is a freelance writer. Continue the conversation @LisaMayoh