Monday, February 11, 2013

I Will Never Understand

Over the weekend I watched on as my son competed at a state junior athletics championships. All of his events were throwing events so as I watched on there were several other parents, coaches and interested onlookers in the vicinity.

For the most part it was a good natured, if somewhat passionate atmosphere. But hey, it's elite junior sport so you expect passion from athletes and their supporters.

What I have also come to expect, but by no means condone, is how some parents, coaches and supporters can become very belittling and even abusive. Two examples in particular come to mind.

While our son's were competing in the discus, me and another father were chatting. The leading thrower came over to speak with his coach, family and supporters. When he had finished talking with them the other dad casually asked him if he had ever tried throwing the hammer. As quick as lightning the coach turned on the dad and blurted out, "No hammer for him. Stay out of it!"

Now I was right there and it was just a bit of conversation with a lad the dad had spoken openly to in the past. Just because you get paid to teach someone a certain skill doesn't give you the right to speak like that to anyone. Imagine if I took that tone with a parent when they made a comment about another child? I would be raked over hot coals.

The other instance was even worse. Now this time I was standing further away, watching a separate event to the person in question, but that doesn't lessen their 'crime' any. I am also unsure if this man was the child's father, coach or some other interested party, but it doesn't matter as the behaviour is abysmal no matter who they were.

Now the first three pace getter in each age group for each event qualify for the national titles in Perth, Western Australia. So armed with that knowledge, here is the verbal exchange that took place.
Adult: "Do you want to go to Perth?"
Child: "Yes." (somewhat timidly)
Adult: "Are you sure? Because it doesn't look like it to me!"
Child: Looks forlorn and embarrassed then says even more timidly, "Yes."
Adult: "Then start bloody trying!"
The child then returns to their event and that is the last I notice of the two of them, except that the child was not there at the end of their event.

I feel really sorry for that child and part of me wanted to go up to that adult and tell them to take it easy, but that may have inflamed the situation. In the end I reported it to an official a little later, only to be told that unless I could definitively identify them there was nothing they could do.

What really irritates me about this is that there are strict behaviour guidelines for athletes, coaches and parents, yet in this instance at least they seem to have been ignored. If I could clearly hear the exchange from my vantage point then the officials at the vent would almost have certainly heard it even better, yet they did absolutely nothing.

In both cases people are asserting their domination of a perceived lesser being. In the case of the child however, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to my own profession. What if someone spoke like that to a 3 year old? Or even a 12 year old in school? I can almost guarantee that heads would roll, so why is it that sporting event seem to a more acceptable environment for such degrading behaviour?

Really, do you know? I would love to hear from you if you do.

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