A 13-year-old umpire was allegedly assaulted by a 46-year-old woman during a junior football game on Saturday. Talk about dodgy parent behaviour. And sadly, she’s not the first parent to go a little crazy on the sidelines.

The male umpire received minor injuries at a Perth sporting complex, according to police investigating the incident.

While we are horrified by this altercation, here at Mum Central we are not surprised. Things can get pretty ugly on the junior sports sidelines. It seems many parents have forgotten that their kids are playing a game. For fun.

One Mum Central writer had her own experience of a sideline ‘Tiger Parent’ on Saturday. She managed to mumble “calm down”, but here’s what she wished she had the guts to say.

Dear screeching mother at under-10s netball (going to just call you Screechy for short),

We need to chat. I hope you can hear me because this is important (Me? I’ve only got one eardrum working after standing next to you at the game).

I’m not sure if you know, but around 70% of kids quit sport by the time they are 13. Why? I have a hunch it’s got something to do with over-zealous parents like, ahem, yourself.

So if you want your little Charlotte to stay in the game, you’re going to need to listen up. I know I’m being preachy, but I learned this lesson the hard way. My loss is your win so to speak (and you do seem like the sort of soul who appreciates a victory).

My six-year-old was playing her first game of netball when I gained my insight. It was a shambles, no-one knew the rules. So I started hollering instructions from the sideline:

Stay with your player, run to the line, throw it over her head, shoot, turn that way, jump!”

I was being uber helpful. Or so I thought until my daughter burst into tears and ran off the court mid-game.

“Mummy why is everybody yelling at me? I can’t think what to do,” she whimpered.

And that’s when I realised there was only one person who got to yell instructions at the kids. The coach. The person who turns up each week to train these mini superstars, encourage them and put up with parents bitching about their Charlottes not getting a fair go. Or the position they want. Or the end of the year trophy. Or a parade.

Look Screechy, I understand you’ve been watching out for Charlotte for many years, making sure she doesn’t trip over, get hit by a bus or eaten by a wild dog. It’s hard to reel in that level of dedication to her well-being. But yelling “She’s on you! Run! Turn around! To the left, to THE LEFT! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Constantly for an hour? It’s too much lady. Ya need to calm down before Charlotte has an anxiety attack.

I hate to break it to you, but Charlotte’s game is not improved by your instruction. All she hears from your noise is “Win! Win! Win! Win!” I fear that one day she will interpret this as “win at all cost”. Even if that means she needs to cheat, play dirty or slog an umpire.

When Charlotte throws a sloppy pass, yelling “Watch your passes” is perhaps not the motivator you intend it to be. Your kiddo knows she threw a bad pass, that’s why the other team got the ball. She feels bad, embarrassed.

She does not need you to underscore her mistake with a hearty “Watch your passes.” Think of it like when you drop a raw egg in the kitchen. And as you stare at the mess your hubby says “Be careful with the eggs.” NOT AT ALL HELPFUL really.

I know you may feel a little redundant handing over the screeching reigns to the coach. But there’s still plenty for you to do. Teach little Charlotte how to win and lose gracefully. Teach her how to shake hands and say something encouraging to the other team. Teach her to thank her coach after each training session and each game. Teach her helpful words to say to her teammates. Clip her ear if she starts bad mouthing the ref or whining about other players.

Cut up the oranges, drive to practice, take the team out for ice-cream, spend ridiculous amounts of money on sports shoes. Practice throwing in the backyard with her if you still think “watch your passes” is applicable. Tell her you loved watching her play. Relay to her a maneuver you saw her do well. These are in your job description. But yelling constant instructions from the sideline? Either you quit, or Charlotte will.

If you must work those impressive vocal chords, I’m gonna let you cheer.

Great shot! Good job! Nice work! Good try! You can do it! Keep trying!”

All these are perfectly acceptable things to screech from the sidelines. “Woo-hoo” if you must. These give the impression that you approve. And you know what? That’s all little Charlotte wants from you. That mum can see her playing and is proud of her. That’s all she’s ever going to want from you.

Be a good sport Screechy. Charlotte is watching and learning from you.

Kind regards,

Half deaf mother from the opposing team on Sunday.

 

Author

Jillian Berry is the exhausted mother of four spirited daughters. Once a journo and editor, she now enjoys torturing her children with zucchini. When she’s not searching for her phone charger, she can be found trying to remember her password, which she only reset yesterday. She fantasizes about escaping to a remote island with her Kindle and a giant jar of Nutella. She’s also a (provisional) psychologist who’d love to make the world a better place, if only she could find the energy.

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