“There are no bad children, only bad parents” is a phrase which is known by many. Essentially, behaviour is learned, mimicked, whichever you feel applies. The same principle applies to sports and over the years I have certainly seen it first hand.
I should stress before continuing that ‘bad’ is a bit strong in most cases. A coach is not setting out to be a bad coach. They are not sitting at home before heading to an event wondering how best they can upset people and have a counter-productive influence on whoever they are coaching. They do want the best outcome for their athletes but their approach has somehow become misguided.
Judo is predicated around mutual benefit and welfare. As a result, the attitudes of the vast majority of coaches and indeed the players has been exemplary in my experience. Yes, perceived bad calls from the referee team are challenged but it is an absolute exception when any behaviour starts to become threatening! This just goes to show how enforcing such principles from the very beginning of the coaching process reap benefits throughout a judoka’s life.
Football, however, has a long-running battle with behavioural problems. The fact that the Respect campaign exists in the first place is testament to this. There is conflict between players (even those on the same team), managers, coaches, spectators and referees. The second game I refereed ‘featured’ an altercation where one manager allegedly assaulted the other over a confrontation regarding a child swearing at some of the gathered parents.
Particularly with youth football, the coaches set the example. If I meet a friendly, relaxed, professional and balanced coach it comes as no surprise when his or her team are there to actually play football. There is precious little dissent. In the unfortunate event that I had to dismiss a player for violent conduct (the irony is appreciated), a manager I am thinking of said after the game “I have no problem with the decision, he deserved it, he has to learn somehow”. Such a well-balanced view is sadly rare.
Compare and contrast to, shall we say, the more shouty coaches. The referee’s decisions are likely to be targeted to compensate in any short falls in team ability. A referee may be pilloried for getting a penalty decision wrong, but the fact that a team missed several open goals will be conveniently forgotten!
That said, some such coaches are ‘balanced’ in that they are just as likely to shout in the same way at their own team. This does, however, result in the players having the same form of attitude (high levels of dissent) which the referee has to deal with firmly. It is important to set the boundaries EARLY.
Referees are there to control the event and enforce as required. Coaches, however, should have trained their players in such a way that the referee should never NEED to be dealing with discipline issues.
However, it is very important to keep an open mind despite the general trends. I was surprised when the latter style of coach who had very loudly criticised a penalty decision during a game was very polite and listened afterwards. He just wanted to know the reasoning. I also heard him complimenting an opposing player on a run. More balanced than perhaps someone just hearing the shouting might have realised.
During my cup final there was one player getting VERY angsty over an offside not being given. I took him to one side and explained what had happened. Once he understood, the angst immediately vanished and he apologised.
Let us not forget the parents as well. They are not just instilling behaviour (good or bad) in their children at home but also when standing and watching at the side of a sporting event!
Coaches, parents, referees… we all have our role to play in education.It is NEVER someone else’s problem: We all have a responsibility to help!
I would love to hear about any behaviour, good or bad, you have witnessed at sporting events and how this may have been linked to any coaches and/or parents present!