Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: Spectators' abuse and swearing spoil the sport

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Good sportsmanship is an integral part of how sport is played. Photo / Getty Images
Good sportsmanship is an integral part of how sport is played. Photo / Getty Images

Spectators can make or break a sports game.

I love the comments that wits in a crowd hurl at hapless players or woeful referees. When the four-letter words are kept to a minimum and the comments are bang-on, some spectators are better than any of the paid commentators.

But when you get the foul-mouthed, abusive couch potatoes sitting sideline, it makes for a gruesome experience.

I don't like the booing of the kickers in rugby that seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon and I'll never forget that image from North and South magazine of a young Canterbury rugby fan, sitting next to his dad, holding up a sign that read "I hate Auckland". That kind of ugliness doesn't belong anywhere near a sports field.

I'm right behind the Herald on Sunday's campaign to clean up the sidelines - especially in children's sport.

My daughter was never a hockey or a netball girl, so my Saturdays haven't been spent shivering at sports fields around the country, but I've been to enough school sports days to know that some parents take sport far too seriously.

They harangue their own children, members of their child's team and on a couple of occasions, the teachers who were coaching the teams.

It's appalling behaviour to witness. They seem to get the Jake Heke red mist descend on them - they are apoplectic with fury at some perceived wrongdoing and appear to lose their senses as they rant and rave over a child's sports game.

My parents were both incredibly competitive sportspeople but they believed in fair play above all else.

Sadly, I didn't inherit any talent from either of them for any sport but I still enjoyed playing most games.

I can still remember, to my eternal shame, Mum taking me off the court during a netball game for packing a sad at the umpire.

A couple of years later she threatened to stop a game of tennis when I snarled at my doubles partner for missing an easy shot.

My parents loved sport, but sportsmanship was an integral part of the way they played, and they communicated that to me.

It wasn't win at all costs, but play hard and play fair. And that mantra applies just as much to the spectators as it does to the players.

- Herald on Sunday

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