One cynical writer wrote there should be no coaches, no referees and no parents involved in Children’s Sports. Children have most fun when they make up and run their own games. Whatever about managers, coaches, or referees, most experts agrees its best, when parents are not involved in organised games, in which their own children participate. The reason they give is that parents will be either too critical or too lenient when it comes to their own offspring. Parents are advised to leave their children in the capable hands of a good Instructor or coach, just as they do when sending them to a good teacher at school, and then as much as possible staying out of the picture. Naturally they should encourage their children, help them with their instructions, and always back the Coach or Instructor. In fact, encouragement is vital and important, interference is embarrassing and disastrous. For all concerned with children’s games, emphasis must be always placed on the effort made, not on the result to be achieved. Remember the couplet; “it’s not whether we win or lose but how we play the game.”
Parental misbehaviour at some contests or games can become such a problem that parents are not allowed on the side-lines, and even games are scheduled during school hours when parents cannot attend. This is sad because the children want their parents present to see them play and to share their experiences in sports. They look forward to their support and encouragement, but not to be humiliated or embarrassed in front of their team-mates or friends. Angry fathers, emotional mothers, who swear at and criticise officials, call opposing players nasty names and shout at their own children, have lost all sense of the meaning and reason for sports. Parents like the officials and players must conform also to the rules and spirit of the game. Parents generally have the best interests of their children at heart and are careful not to put too much pressure on them to compete. They let them develop their own standards of excellence and refrain from pushing them to meet their own, especially if they themselves were very good.
The late Fr Patrick Peyton of “Family Rosary Fame” used to say ; “the family that prays together stays together” ; so does the Family that plays together. Rudyard Kipling once said “give me the first six years of a child’s life and you can have the rest”. Parents have that privilege and should be grateful and make the most of it and use it well. They do this by showing a deep interest in all their children’s activities by helping them, participating themselves, teaching them the basic skills while all of the time having fun and enjoyment. Later, when the children attend school and enter organised contests or play for the school or parish team, they should help with the transportation, provide the proper equipment, get the playing areas ready, assist the officials, and help with the practice sessions if called upon to do so.
All such gestures will be deeply appreciated both by the Instructors and children alike and will ensure that the school, parish, or community have a top flight programme and a well run organisation for all children who wish to join. Children are most influenced by those they love and who love them. That is why good parents are the first, the best and the most effective of all Instructors who make it easy for all who take over from and for them in later years. As the old saying goes; “Tús Maith Leath na h-Oibre”.
Fr Liam Kitt.
Galway GAA Annual