Giving Up Sports for Fear of Making Mistakes
Mistakes are a normal part of sports and of life. Mistakes are okay and they are nothing to be afraid of. Unfortunately, there have been many examples of young officials (in all sports, Basketball included) giving up the role because of the fear and consequences of making mistakes. We have provided some examples from other sports, but they equally apply to basketball.
A Fun Football Game That Turned Nasty
What had been a Sunday morning under-15’s football game had turned into a pitch invasion, then a full-scale scrap between two London teams and their parents. “Grown adults arguing with 15-year-olds on the pitch,” says James, the coach of one of the teams. “The referee and linesmen were chased off the ground. It was crazy.” He doesn’t quite know how it started – a player had been sent off, he thinks, and one of the parents made a comment – but tensions had been simmering between sets of parents all throughout the match. “The kids got into an altercation with parents, then they retaliated, parents hitting kids, it was crazy. Full-on fisticuffs between 15-year-olds and grown men. Then the mums got involved, screaming and shouting.” Many of the players were tall, strapping 15-year-olds, and some of the parents were intimidating, too. The police turned up and made everyone go their separate ways.
This event marked the beginning of the end for James. What had started as a fun, rewarding volunteer work with children and teenagers, in teams that fostered a sense of community spirit, had become fraught with meddling and abuse from the players’ mums and dads. One father once ran on to the pitch to tell his son to ignore the instructions the coach had given. James has been shouted at across the pitch by parents telling him he didn’t know what he was doing, and he has seen his son verbally criticised by opposition-team parents at matches. James decided last season would be his final one. “It just became a toxic, nasty environment,” he says.
A Disheartened Young Referee
A second example is Emily Dyke, a 14-year-old football referee from Cleveland, who had had enough of being verbally abused by parents and put a post on Facebook asking the parents who attended games she refereed to stop shouting and swearing at her. At one game, she had been told she was a “f***ing disgrace” for one of her decisions. “I have recently suffered some verbal abuse from people whilst refereeing and have found it very difficult to deal with, to the point I’m now considering not doing it anymore,” she wrote. “I’m not looking for sympathy or anything like that. I’m wanting people to realise that I’m just a child doing something I love. I want everyone to take a look at their children and put yourself in my shoes when the abuse is being said.”
A Swimming Coach’s Bad Experience
Another example is when Andrew, a swimming coach for many years, remembers parents fighting each other and one pushing an official into the pool for disqualifying his daughter from a race. “Once I had one lad I didn’t pick for a relay and his father damaged my car. They become obsessed. If they can see their child swimming from one end of the pool to the other faster than the kid in the next lane, they think they’re going to be in the Olympics.”
Pride and Ego
Chris Hodgson, a football coach, explains “It’s all about pride and ego,” of the parents, that is. “When a child wakes up on Saturday morning and he’s got a poster of Lionel Messi on his wall, he dreams and fantasises about being like Messi. In the other bedroom, you’ve got the dad who wakes up expecting his child to be like Messi. That’s the problem, they’re expected to be like professional footballers from the age of seven.”
But children – and parents – still dream. A few years ago, Hodgson was watching his nine-year-old son play in a football match. “There was one child who had been playing for an academy team and the mother said: ‘He’s my pension.’” Hodgson pointed out how unlikely it was that the boy would ever become a professional, let alone a Premier League player. “She went: ‘Don’t be daft, he will make it.’”
Food for thought, how many parents attending a training session, or their child’s sports day, can really claim to have always watched silently from the sidelines? In the heat of the moment, sometimes it’s hard not to become that pushy parent.