Trackside encouragement done in the right way to let riders enjoy their time on track

We sport enthusiasts always have a habit of getting a bit carried away trackside. Cheering on our riders and children, is a very exciting and passionate part of our lives and is something that has been instilled in us from our own parents and coaches.

The desire for our participants to do well and be proud of their achievements is like a thirst of incredible satisfaction which can never be quenched. The energy we have as spectators is always encouraged by the excitement and passion we see from our riders.

However, sometimes we seem to lose sight of what’s important, sometimes our energy and excitement on the sidelines can begin to dampen the spirits of those on the track. Sometimes, the ideology of winning can overthrow the importance of why we picked up a bike in the first place.

Our words of encouragement or disappointment can etch in our riders for the rest of their lives. The words shouted, exclaimed or exuberantly communicated while watching a race can begin to suck away the life and light that shines through every rider who hits our tracks.

No one ever means to do that, and we’re pretty proud of the fact that it rarely occurs in BMX. But it never hurts to remind ourselves that while we’re here to get good results, make a team, win a title or ride at worlds…involvement in BMX always begins with enjoyment for being on the bike.

And there isn’t much out there more liberating than just getting on, riding and having fun and forgetting about times, results and benchmarks.

The below article from Play by the rules explores the effects that words from the sideline, no matter how major or minor, can have on a rider.

Let Kids Be Kids – Play by the Rules resource

Parents all want their children to shine on the sports field. Yet there’s nothing that will dull a child’s sparkle more than having parents and spectators pressure them from the sidelines.

It can be an easy trap to fall into as an adult. We go to adult sports events where the noise of the crowd masks all but the voices of those nearest us. We comment out loud at players’ performances, roar at mistakes, and vocally urge our favourites to do better and go harder.

We call it atmosphere.

But at a child’s sports event, we are likely to be one of only a few dozen spectators. When we scream instructions or yell in disgust, our child and other children on the field can hear every comment, and they know where it comes from.

What they hear can have a marked impact on them for the rest of their sporting lives. Some may rise above it. Many can’t.

Now in his fifties and one of Australia’s most successful football leaders, (EDIT: Now former) Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou is at the top of his game, revered for his energy and confidence, and with a reputation for not suffering fools gladly.

It may come as a surprise to learn then, that Postecoglou harbours a discomforting memory from his childhood of huddling, frightened with his team mates and opposition players as parents argued on the sideline.
Throwing his support behind the Play by the Rules ‘Let Kids Be Kids’ campaign to raise awareness of the impact of poor sideline behaviour, Postecoglou recounts the story of how an enjoyable weekend sports match suddenly turned ugly.

“I must have been 10 or 11 and the parents started arguing and fighting amongst each other,” he says in a video message for ‘Let Kids Be Kids’. “And the thing that struck is that the kids—us—both teams, just huddled together in the centre circle, each of us frightened for ourselves and I guess for our parents.

“And even at such a young age it made such an impression on me that the people arguing and fighting outside the field forgot why they were there … because why they were there were the kids, and their kids were scared, huddled together, opposition and team alike, trying to protect one another.”

Postecoglou is one of a number of high profile sports people endorsing the ‘Let Kids be Kids’ campaign. Netball and volleyball player Caitlin Thwaites says children find shrugging off sideline comments very difficult. Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja says sideline abuse often robbed him of his childhood fun both on and off the sports field. Former


Australian Rules footballer Nick Dal Santo observes that even parents who are trying to encourage their children, frequently do it in a ‘bit of a degrading way’. “And if just keeps chipping away at them, eventually they’ll either one, drop out of the sport, or two, just purely not enjoy it for what it’s meant to be.”

By far some of the most moving stories recorded as part of the ‘Let Kids be Kids‘ campaign come from children themselves. Children’s comments about sideline abuse range from: “it makes me feel like I’m useless and can’t do anything”, to “sometimes it makes me sad, but sometimes it makes me feel angry at the same time”. One child pleads: “Would you please like stop yelling at me on the court because it’s making me feel like I can’t do it anymore”.

Play by the Rules has released a toolkit with practical advice and steps to help sports groups stamp out poor sideline behaviour and power junior sport with positive support.

The message being sent is clear: let kids have fun and do what they love. On the sports field, let kids be kids.