Parents, it's time to can the criticism
THE flood of signs erected on the roadsides encouraging kids to join their local sporting teams leaves me in no doubt that sport's elevated place in Australia's culture is alive and well.
However our national love of sport leads to a propensity to place the spotlight on our country's sporting elite and increased media attention on incidents and reports of bad behaviour among our sporting stars raises debate about the impact on our youth.
With 3.2 million Australian children participating in organised sport or physical activity outside of school, it is essential we promote and nurture a love of playing sport at any level and not just an elite competitive focus.
Parents are major drivers and supporters of their child's sporting development but they don't always remain positive or stay realistic in their expectations.
Good guidance, support and behaviour during a child's formative sporting years can positively influence their sporting journey and enhance enjoyment of sport long term.
How many cases do we hear where a top sportsperson's on-field and off-field problems are attributed to their upbringing and negative parental influences?
It's those parents on the sidelines, shouting out inappropriate comments to their child, their child's teammates, teachers, coaches and game officials, who negatively influence the sporting experience for their child.
Parents are the initial role models for their children. No wonder some children grow up displaying poor sportsmanship.
It is a telling sign when sports associations around the country have had to enact measures to curb violence and negative behaviour by parents.
Studies acknowledge the detrimental effect characteristics some parents display, for example over-inflating a player's ego, providing inappropriate coaching advice, living vicariously through their child and putting pressure on them to win at all costs.
It seems obvious to me positive parental involvement, matching expectations with the child's development and encouraging participation in sport helps develop important skills such as self-esteem, motivation and social participation, so why do we still see cases of enjoyment and sporting progress hindered by overzealous mums and dads?
Is it the parent's dream their child will achieve sporting glory or the prospect of multimillion-dollar contracts that has them pushing their children harder, forcing them to participate year-round in the hopes of creating the next superstar?
Remember, it's just a game. Life has enough challenges. Make sport fun.