Our winter sports season is up and running. It is always more competitive and more intense than the summer. The whole school in one place for a morning: skill and technique, fitness and strength, courage and tenacity are all required in abundance. Emotions can run high. Boys can lose control or allow their egos to trump their common sense. Old Boys have their own agenda of demonstrating loyalty – a loyalty that often exceeds their commitment in their schooldays. Sometimes it is parents who lose control. No matter who, it is never an edifying sight and always causes embarrassment.
Certain school fixtures on our circuit are known to be hostile; two of the schools we play even had a mini-riot last month. We saw harassment of referees and umpires here at our own school on the weekend. We have all seen it before — “that” parent in the stands that yells profanities, disrupts a game, makes loud fun of the officials, or even worse aggressively acts out by fighting with other fans, coaches, or even his own child. Of course, nobody wants to be “that” parent, but it seems as though with every year that passes there are even more parents who don’t seem to be able to control themselves at sports fixtures. Mostly good schools and nearly always good people and yet it happens. This leads to the million dollar question: Why?
I’ll bet you have never met a parent in your life who intentionally goes to sports fixtures with the goal of being a troublemaker. The truth is that parents do not typically go to games looking for trouble, and in the vast majority of cases when parents do “lose it,” they often regret their actions terribly the next day.
Here’s another fact that may surprise you — there really aren’t many truly “bad” parents who attend games, but instead adults who temporarily lose their cool in the middle of a game and snap. Of course, this does not justify anyone acting out (especially those who cause physical harm), but it may be a nice segue into better understanding why some parents ruin the experience for everyone when they do stupid things at games.
While this may surprise us, the truth is we are all potential candidates to be the next adult who says or does something at a sports fixtures that we later end up regretting. The reason for this can be summarized in the following points:
- We are all human, and as humans we are apt to make mistakes – including having brief, momentary lapses of reason at sports fixtures.
- Think of emotions and logic being on opposite ends of a line. While you might be in a very logical mind-state sitting at home reading this article now, it’s likely your emotions will trump logic when your son’s game starts on Saturday. Big fixtures can be an incredibly emotional experience, and when we get emotional we simply don’t think logically. Of course, this doesn’t make us bad people per se, but suggests that we sometimes struggle keeping things in check when we see our child (or the officials) mess up on the field. Sports are fluid and often move very fast, and so do our emotions — it is for this reason that we don’t always think logically when we are excited about what we are experiencing.
- Probably the biggest reason why parents sometimes “lose it” at games has to do with the cumulative efforts many families make so that their child can be successful at sports. Just think about all the time, energy, and money many parents put into their son’s sports training — and then with all their hopes hanging in the balance they witness their son miss an open goal or a try that they know he can do a thousand times in practice! It is in that moment that some parents simply crack, and the result is usually an off-colour comment, negative body language, or even an aggressive act.
I think that we will be OK here at our school if our parents can remember that it is never appropriate to act out at sport fixtures. All people are apt to make mistakes, and it is the emotional part of sport that often supersedes human logic when parents temporarily lose control. It is also a different time today, one where some families spend unbelievable amounts of time and money devoted to sport development and training for their child. Then we have our own internal system of rewards through Colours and Honours, a system that gives boys a goal at which to aim and a CV to build. With so much riding on their son’s sporting success, it can be especially frustrating to witness anything less than success. The result, unfortunately, is often an unexpected loss of emotional control.
I would hope that we can get through this summer without incident. The sporting code of conduct that we place in our weekly programmes would be a good guide for those in doubt.