We have all seen it at some point, those parents screaming at the top of their lungs from the sidelines at their child or the team, thinking they are being helpful. Adults hurling abuse at professional sportsmen playing football because they believe they have the right to do so. Where do you draw the line of ‘white line fever’ turning into bullying?
At a junior football match I watched on the weekend, I sadly witnessed this first hand, which, lasted for the entire match. Although I couldn’t hear the sledging, I could certainly see how this one particular boy was targeted by the opposition. Not only was it verbal, it also became physical, clearly not in the spirit of the game and certainly not something I expected to witness at a junior football match. Having attended many sporting events in my time, you hear the sledging from the crowd, some of the time said in jest, yet there have been many times where sledging has crossed the line and become personal and about race or religion. Of late, there has been a very public stance on this type of behaviour with consequences for those offenders. What leads a person to think this type of thing is acceptable? Someone who stoops to this level, has probably been the subject of bullying themselves at some point, has low self- esteem and feels the only way they can make themselves feel better is to pull someone else down. The scary part is to see this type of behaviour in children, teenagers and adults. Equally scary is this happened on a football field, in full view of spectators.
As a society, we are encourage our children into sport for so many different reasons, all of which are supposed to be positive. Was this a positive experience for this player? No. Will this young boy consider quitting his beloved footy because of his targeted bullying? He may very well because it was not the first time. Not once did we see a tear in his eye on the field, nor did he retaliate when he was on the ground with kids piled on top of him, nor did he back away from the play but he held his head high until the final siren went and he left the ground…..in tears. The constant taunts, name-calling, sledging, call it what you like, got to him as it would to anyone. I question the role models these children have at a club level and if they are encouraged to act like this and target the vulnerable ones. They have certainly been told to target players, not because they are fast and need to be shut down for their skill but also to target those kids that perhaps aren’t as quick and come across as easy targets with personal attacks. This was not played in the spirit of the game and should not be tolerated. As a parent, when this type of situation arises, our kids look to us for support and need us as their voice. What they don’t need is us to say, just ignore them, don’t worry, it will be ok. Why? Because they can’t ignore it, they do worry and it won’t be ok for the next player targeted in the following match. Actions speak louder than words and we as a club, did report this and have made a complaint however, it is up to the opposition club, their coach and parents to sit down and talk to these players.
In this instance, the scoreboard did all the talking and our boys came out on top. I certainly hope this young and very talented player can rise above it, find some belief in himself and take the field again next week ready to play the game he loves and let the scoreboard do the talking.