Be a good sport

"These are kids", the signs say. "This is a game." Under the heading Please Remember, the signs also note that coaches are volunteers and referees are human.

The signs were made by the Moutere Rugby Club to put up at junior games as a reminder for spectators to keep things in perspective. "This is not Super 15 rugby," says the final point.

Good message.

It should not be necessary, but we know why it is: parents wants their kids to do well at sport - they want winners or at least triers. Not all parents know how to convey that. They shout, they rant and they abuse.

Encouragement is a good thing. Yelling at coaches, referees and the players is not.

A letter to the Express this week by a parent suggests that other clubs might need to follow Moutere's example. The mum wrote that she is "sick of the appalling behaviour" she sees at junior games every weekend. Apart from the obvious need to show respect for people trying to do their best, it's about setting a good example for the children.

In those early years it is equally important for young players to learn good sportsmanship alongside good playing skills - to take defeat graciously, accept the official's decisions, follow the coach's instructions, support the other players, pack up the gear afterwards, give the other team a fair go.

If a coach is looking at players of similar playing ability, they are likely to pick the one with a better attitude and less likely to incur penalties through foul play and poor tactics.

Those attitudes - good and bad - are almost always carried up the grades.

Just two weekends ago, respected Marlborough football referee Dave Baker called off a game between Nelson Suburbs and Marlborough Development 20 minutes early because he'd had enough of the abuse from visiting team managers and supporters on the sideline. The junior rugby sign would not have gone amiss at that game.

Yes, it's good to be passionate about the game, and it is frustrating when calls seem to go the wrong way, but all players know they win some and lose some.

There's that old saying: if you can't think of something good to say, keep your mouth shut. Why do people forget that when it comes to sport?

The Marlborough Express