By Ricky Stuart
From: The Sunday Telegraph
July 25, 2009
I LEARNED the hard way. It cost me my job as Test coach. Don't let it be you.
When I picked up the paper this week and read about the latest episode of ugly sporting parents, it made me feel upset and angry.
Upset because I know I've been guilty of bad behaviour towards match officials in the past. And angry because I've seen parents at sporting events behave terribly.
Last November I stood down from my job as Kangaroos coach because of my disrespectful behaviour towards World Cup match officials Ashley Klein and Stuart Cummings.
At the time some people were advising me not to quit. They said in time it would all blow over. But I made the call for two simple reasons.
Firstly, if a player of mine had behaved the same way I would have stood him down. And secondly, how could I ever turn up to my son's junior league game on Saturday mornings and feel I had any right to tell an over-zealous parent to cool it if the occasion ever arose.
And don't worry, it has.
It makes me sick in the stomach to see parents living their lives through a child's dreams. I've been at games where parents have screamed 'bash him' or 'punch him in the head'.
I remember it happening at an under 11's match.
Seriously, under 11s.
It's not just in rugby league. I've seen it at junior soccer matches, rugby union and AFL matches too. I've heard of an incident where a parent waved money in the face of junior soccer ref, trying to bribe him. Can you believe it?
Last week a man allegedly got bashed trying to separate an argument.
I wonder how much of this bad behaviour stems from the fact we put too much pressure on these kids?
I am bewildered why we have to grade under 7s to 11s.
Let them play with their mates. Who cares if they're an 'A' or 'B' player?
Grading shouldn't exist until under 12s.
Our constant need to measure little Johnny against little Jimmy only fuels tension. I've watched coaches at under 8s and 9s taking statistics.
Hit-ups, tackles, kicks ... it's pathetic.
How can they possibly enjoy playing with their mates when it's all about winning? Coaches often ask me how their junior team is going after I've watched their training session or a game.
I always reply; "How many players have you lost this season?'' If it's hardly any, then that coach is having a good year because his players are enjoying themselves.
In my position, I could argue my view of the game is different. It's my livelihood, it's my career. I'm in a results driven business.
Things can get heated when there is so much pressure on the line and livelihoods are at stake.
But we have to put things into context here. Junior sport should be about enjoyment. Fullstop.
I hope we never get to the stage where junior players are banned for their parents' bad behaviour. It's not the little kids who have to change. It's the adults.
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