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The Herald on Sunday editorial

Herald on Sunday editorial: Get rid of abuse at sport for children

Did you watch your child playing sport yesterday? Was it what you expect on a winter Saturday morning in New Zealand?

Green grass, keen youngsters in footy boots and club colours, volunteer parent coaches out on the field pointing the kids in the right direction, taking turns at being referee.

And with you on the sidelines, were there other parents and supporters watching with pleasure, enjoying the kids' efforts, cheering or consoling them in a good spirit?

Or were there one or two adults who have yet to grow up?

Sport does strange things to some people, even in children's sport.

Watching their child, they turn into competitive obsessives. It looks like they need the child to do what they delude themselves they did at the same age. Or perhaps they need the child to do what they think they could have done if somebody had driven them as hard as they are driving their child now.

Whatever is going on their head, they are probably embarrassing their child, disgracing the team, appalling the adults around them and, all too likely, abusing opposing players and supporters and the referee.

Ponsonby police constable John To'ua-Kalava has witnessed this sort of behaviour on the sidelines while watching sport off-duty. He found it serious enough to organise a police presence at Auckland junior Saturday sport.

It will be low key, the Weekend Herald reported yesterday. The police will run a free barbecue to promote goodwill between rival spectators.

That is a positive step but if they see abusive or offensive behaviour, they should go further. People who make the effort to organise, coach or referee sport for other people's children do not deserve abuse.

Others should not have their pleasure spoiled. Young players should not be abused and, more important, they should not be exposed at an impressionable age to rank, unsporting attitudes in a parent they are liable to emulate.

Two weekends ago Wellington Rugby used a stunt involving All Black Victor Vito as an undercover referee to promote better sideline behaviour. It should not require the presence of respected figures to make the sidelines civilised. Immature obsessives should be kept far away from kids' sport.

- Herald on Sunday

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