The State of Sideline Behaviour

“Wake up, what the hell are you doing?! Stop being so useless, get in there and smash them” isn’t something you would expect to hear coming from the side lines of your child’s game, but unfortunately this is the disturbing reality of the state of sideline behaviour, not only in Tairāwhiti but nationally.

Poor sideline behaviour doesn’t just start and stop at the field, court or pitch, it’s also what is said to tamariki in the car ride home. This is a prime opportunity to celebrate effort, being a team player and having a good attitude, but instead it is used as time to criticise, critique and focus on the negative.

Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti Chief Executive Stefan Pishief said, “Enough is enough.”

“Statistically, physical activity levels of tamariki and rangatahi drop off as they get older. Parental pressure and poor side line behaviour can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, aggressive behaviour, and resentment towards physical activity. Negative side line behaviour should not be underestimated, what supporters say on the side lines matters.”

Central Football Operations Manager for the Tairāwhiti region, Fletcher Stewart-Hill said “Unfortunately, all too often, we see behaviour from adults on sports sidelines that is unacceptable and extremely unhelpful to our tamariki and rangatahi. Kids want to enjoy their sport and want encouragement from the sideline, not constant instructions or advice and certainly not being told what they could do better. We are very supportive of any initiative that helps provide guidance and support to those on the sideline so that we can in turn ensure that our young players get the most enjoyment from their sport.”

As supporters, parents and role models it is important that we show our tamariki what it means to support each other so they can develop a lifelong love of sport, not because they won but because they felt connected, they showed up and tried their best.

“We understand people are passionate about their teams and their sports, but people need to take responsibility for their behaviour and language around our courts and fields. We know of players who ask parents not to come to games because they’re embarrassed by them or drop out of sport so they don’t have to tolerate it. That’s a sad position to be in. Organisations work hard to make our sportsgrounds safe spaces for all of our players, so Kia Pai Whanau!” Said Gisborne Netball Centre Manager Allisa Hall.

Referees are also at the brunt of negative sideline behaviour.

“There is an assumption by adults that young referees are not qualified or don’t know the game well enough – this is just not the case.” Said Gisborne Basketball Association Chairperson Kylie Turuwhenua-Tapsell.

“Our referees go through Basketball NZ training modules, are supported by referee developers and 9 times out of 10, it’s the supporters lack of basketball knowledge or use of outdated rules that is the issue. In my opinion it is also their fixed mental models about young people where some adults feel they can talk to a young person in a manner that they would never do with another adult”

“Please keep bringing your fantastic supporters vibes but also remember to focus on the positive and let the coach do the rest”

“Our sidelines have improved immensely” Said Poverty Bay Hockey Association Operations Manager Louise Teneti.

“However, we still have spectators that think they can coach and umpire, and yet they haven’t done either. We want to encourage our spectators to support their team and let the officials do their job!”

Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti, along with clubs and codes, have rallied together to find solutions on how to combat these side line behaviour issues.

“After experiencing unusually high instances of poor side-line behaviour at JAB rugby early on in the season, we have seen a sharp decline as the season progressed due to a number of contributing factors.” Said Poverty Bay Rugby Football Union Community Rugby Manager Ray Noble

“We changed the physical environment of our under 12 and 13 grades in terms of where coaches and subs were allowed to stand which had an immediate impact. PBRFU also enforced the JAB warning and sanction process diligently when instances cannot be solved between club delegates. This has meant there are consequences for bad behaviour.”

“With the majority of issues happening at our U12 and U13 grade. PBRFU believe that if we can lift our level of service and work with the clubs in the off season to prevent negative sideline behaviour, it will dramatically improve the quality of experience for our participants.”

Good Sports is an initiative developed by Sport New Zealand that aims to create positive sporting experiences for children by educating and supporting parents and other adult influencers in youth sport. Many issues in children’s sport stem from adult involvement. These issues include poor side-line behaviour, overuse injury, burnout and disaffection with sport – and they can hinder success on and off the field.

To keep tamariki and rangatahi engaged in sport and being active, the focus should be on the climate of development; trying over results, that mistakes are necessary for growth, effort is recognised, everyone is included, and friendship and care is encouraged. This is what Good Sports promote.

For parents/caregivers with tamariki who love their sport, and professionals working with rangatahi, Dr Craig Harrison, an internationally recognised expert in youth development, will be hosting his Making Sense of Feedback workshop at Waikanae Surf Lifesaving Club on Tuesday 2 August from 6pm. You can register for the event on Eventbrite.

“If you’re a side line parent or supporter, ask yourself: How would I feel if someone yelled at me the way I’m yelling at them? Would I want to participate, referee or coach if someone was telling me I was useless? What words of encouragement would I want to hear coming from the side line?” Said Pishief.