A Saturday spent on the sidelines at children’s sporting games has become a quintessential part of Australian culture.  Clubs with lots of kids teams rely on parents involvement in running the club.  As a result, they do more than just watch a game with Mums and Dads filling roles of coach, referee, administrators and scorers. They help fundraise, maintain fields and stock equipment ready for game day.

In Australia, the sporting sector relies on 1.8 million volunteers, making it the largest sector that relies on volunteers. Volunteers are engaged in 158 million hours each year which is equivalent to 90,000 full-time jobs.

The ‘ugly side’ of kids sport

With all this goodwill supporting sporting events, it is surprising that some parents forget about this significant volunteer commitment. You may have seen some ‘ugly’ behaviour on the sidelines – the ones who take the game a little too seriously. They might scream instructions, use foul language towards the referees, other parents or even other children. I think we all know the type.

Research shows this behaviour, known as ‘ugly parent syndrom’, can have a lasting negative impact on children and volunteers. A recent Flinders’ University study found that children become unmotivated because of ‘ugly parent syndrom’ and aggressive spectator behaviuor.

It’s not just kids that are affected with many volunteers, parents and spectators being caught in the firing line of unwanted behaviour.  Many parents withdraw from volunteer roles as they have experienced unwanted behaviour.

Tips for sporting volunteers

These tips may be useful, if you become the victim of ‘ugly parents.’

  • If the abuse is aimed at you, stay calm and professional and remember others may be watching how you deal with the situation.  An angry or curt response will not help the situation.
  • When the abuse is towards an official, refer to the club’s code of behaviour and explain why the behaviour is unacceptable.
  • There is no excuse for a child to be the subject of ugly behaviour.  Speak to the parent privately about their behaviour and the potential impact it can have.
  • Should the ‘ugly behaviour,’ continue after the full-time whistle has blown raise the matter with security or a team official.

As a team coach or manager you can be proactive and use Toppako to help navigate communication with parents and team members. You can stop ugly sideline conversations from continuing past game day.

Using Toppako’s group function you can send messages to parents that you may not want to share with players.  Or perhaps a game strategy message is appropriate for team players and not other reads.  Toppako reviews and filters every message to ensure that messages with inappropriate and negative words, are not sent via email or text. 

Watch what kids say they need from parents and spectators who are on the sideline.

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