Parental behaviour on the side-lines of all sports in New Zealand is an issue that is rightfully getting publicity over recent years. Stories of abuse of officials and pushy parents spoiling school children sporting events seem to be increasingly common place.
Sport, particularly at primary school level, should be about the enjoyment and understanding the value of sportsmanship and teamwork. Abuse of these children spoil the event, and officials are all doing it as voluntary help, have no training, and putting effort into encouraging children the best they can. So there is no doubt that it is a blight on sport and society and can not be tolerated.
But enter Clown Prince Billy Harris; former All White and now High Performance Coach at Eastern Suburbs AFC in Auckland.
He has taken it upon himself to start a campaign to introduce a complete silence policy at all junior games. Yes, you read that right. No talking from the parents at all.
This is the club where the coach of the Premier side, Kevin Fallon, has been in the news over the last week for being abusive. Irony overload.
In an e-mailed letter to all parents he’s dealt out the order. Note this is a club with around 900 players in its junior ranks.
“It’s very important that we have you, the parents, onboard. You are absolutely critical in creating the environment that will help your kids enjoy themselves and improve … The studies tell us that the children enjoy themselves more if mum and dad keep quiet on the sideline.”
Now which studies would these be Billy? All the parenting studies I’ve ever seen stress that constructive feedback for children is critical.
Then he misses the point completely.
“Even “positive” support is negative”
How so, Billy?
“If your child gets the ball and you yell “Go, go go!” this will hype them up, whereas what we want is for them to stay calm and relaxed so they can attempt their skills.”
Oh please. They are children, Billy, not robots. You are known for struggling to connect with the children you coach, and perhaps this is part of the reason why. Children love to be hyped; they thrive on it. And this from someone whose main legacy as a player was being known as really lippy.
Then Billy gets all angry on things and switches to caps and bold text mode.
BIG KICKS ARE THE ENEMY OF LEARNING TO DRIBBLE AND PASS THE BALL!
That is sound advice to 12 year-olds playing in an elite division, but remember this e-mail went to parents of 900 children across all ages and grades. Try telling a five year-old that a big kick is not really cool.
He really is seriously deluded. It is like he thinks running the Barcelona youth academy.
Perhaps he does think that.
Or perhaps he thinks he is here to provide us with previously un-scaled heights of aesthetics. He continues….
The parents watch quietly, just as they would if they went to their child’s school to observe them learning in the classroom or playing in the orchestra..
Surely even one as disconnected from the real world as Billy Harris can see the difference between your average football crowd and your average symphony orchestra audience?
But, once more, he’s referring to some unnamed, nebulous study. He seems to have access to plenty of these.
“To improve kids’ learning, professional clubs overseas are putting a ban on parents watching the game from the sideline.”
I imagine I am not the only person who would like to see the background and context of that allegation.
“The parents stand well back from the field, and if they yell out anything they are asked to leave (with their child).”
Way to go Billy. Let’s make sport a really friendly environment.
Finally, and without a hint of the obvious irony he finishes up with this.
“Remember, they’re (the children) not there for your entertainment, they’re there for theirs.”
What the e-mail makes obvious is that in fact the children are there for Billy Harris’s ego, and this crackpot plan. And that he feels he has the right to bully parents and by implication their children into this latest pet project.
On the positive side, it appears this e-mail has achieved something. It has acted as a bonding mechanism for parents on the side-lines watching Easter Suburbs FC games. They discuss the ridiculous nature of the e-mail, and laugh about it.