Sports Day: The Rise Of The Pushy Parent



July is upon us and many Sports Days are in full swing, for many children, teachers AND parents, it's an exciting annual event and in some cases, much preparation is done in the upcoming days. This may seem pretty extreme considering it's meant to be classed as a 'bit of fun' but last week it emerged that pushy parents had admitted to training their children and even offering encouragement to cheat in hope that this would bring a medal home, is this a step too far?

Recent surveys show that one in five parents have helped their child to stick eggs to spoons while 25% offer bribes to their children in a bid to encourage them to win. Is this just a little bit of a harmless nudge? We sometimes can't help it, I'll even admit that in previous competitions I've found myself shouting away on the sideline, before realising that not only am I probably getting slightly carried away, but I'm definitely embarrassing the younger generation too. Many say that pushy parents need to stay quiet whilst watching their children race, even Gary Lineker said that it's about time many of us understand that screaming abuse from the sidelines is killing children's passion for sport.

It is understandable why children may find their parents taunts intimidating, it's the taking part that counts and children should not be made to feel inferior to others. With many children spending much time in the classroom, a day in the sun with their friends and family should be something that is celebrated rather than dreaded. Although we want the best for our children and we want them to succeed, the way that many parents are acting could be a sign that we are losing sight of 'good sportsmanship'. Every day we teach our children to be fair and grateful, we teach them that trying their hardest is an achievement, so a bribe is essentially teaching them to cut corners. Every child is different and it's essential that everyone is realistic about their child's ability, I was never good at sports at school but I always took part - surely that's what counts?

It is however a good idea to consider that many parents aren't just becoming red-faced on the sideline, there are plenty of positive comments too. Although many of us sigh at the one or two over excited parents screaming inspirational words as we watch on, it is these that motivate many of our children on a daily basis. Our competitive nature is what pushed us to do well, and if we push our kids to study and do well in school, should it really become so controversial on the school field? In today's society there are many on going debates about whether children do in fact get enough exercise on a regular basis, so perhaps a good bit of light-hearted encouragement is a good thing?

In many cases, sports is what keeps families close. Long car trips, early mornings and shared interests that doesn't mean mentioning the word 'homework' or 'exam studies' has drawn many parents and their children closer together. When speaking to many children, it isn't the actual winning that they enjoy, of course it's a bonus but when speaking of a weekend away or a day with their friends, it is this that gets the most attention. By focussing heavily on the winning, we forget what is important. Wanting to win is only human, but sometimes losing is inevitable, so I feel that today's job is to teach the younger generation that a high-five is definitely in order if they cross the finish line first but also that only they can control their own efforts and to focus on this rather than the outcome.

Once upon a time, the average school sports day was a simple affair: long jump, high jump, 100 yards and a handful of fathers making a spectacle of themselves in a race, today it may be seen as a little different, but as long as it gives the chance for all to get involved, surely there will always be a happy ending?