Christchurch mother upset by parents’ poor behavior at school sports

A Christchurch mother is criticizing other parents for laughing and making mocking comments towards primary school-age children taking part in a cross-country race last week.

Alicia Shaw was cheering on her children, ages 6 and 8, at their school race on May 14 when she noticed the comments and behavior of other parents on the sidelines.

“I’m very upset by the behavior, the attitude of some of the parents there and what they said,” Shaw said in a video posted to her TikTok account.

“And keep in mind that my children go to a Catholic school and they should be taught all of these values… you would think that the parents sending them would have some of those values. But it’s not like that”.

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In the video, which has since been viewed almost 9,000 times, Shaw said comments were being made “left, right and centre”, with the worst coming as some Year 3 and 4 pupils approached the finish line.

“They are children from 7 to 8 years old. As the race goes on, there’s always a group of kids behind who are tired, running, walking in the middle, and really screwed.

“At the end… this dad, right next to them, says, ‘Oh, here comes the walking club,’ and starts laughing.”

His focus was on supporting the children “in a positive way,” otherwise he would have said something to the man, who had no idea how hard some of the children had trained for the race, Shaw said.

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“Because how dare you approach children who are tired, who have been letting out their little hearts and are children… (to) laugh at them, it’s really disgusting.”

Several children walked past the man as he made the comment and many were exhausted and seemed upset, Shaw told the Herald.

“It was hard to tell if it was directly from hearing it or if it just added to an already exhausting and emotional moment.”

No one had questioned him about his comments, he said.

“The moms around him were laughing.”

I had also heard other parents call their children “slow” and say they were “lazy” while talking to each other.

“My kids don’t like sports, so it’s not something I’ve had much experience with, but after reading the comments on my video, it seems to be a common problem.

“There were a lot of amazing parents and teachers in attendance who were very encouraging, so it’s sad that some took time out of their day to create negativity.”

Shaw declined to name the school “as I don’t want it to be a reflection on them, but rather a widespread problem among parents.”

She wasn’t sure she wanted her children to participate in next year’s cross country, as the parents’ behavior detracted from “what the event is really about.”

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“It was a priority for me that the kids were active, involved in school and doing their best, rather than making sure they won.

“My message to anyone attending these events is to be positive and don’t judge the children. If the parents making comments were in the same situation, I doubt they would appreciate others making fun of them.”

According to Sport NZ, only 7 per cent of New Zealand children and adolescents aged 5 to 18 meet physical activity guidelines.  Photo / John Cowpland
According to Sport NZ, only 7 per cent of New Zealand children and adolescents aged 5 to 18 meet physical activity guidelines. Photo / John Cowpland

One of his sons was crying after the event and saw his young friend put his arm around him and tell him what a great job he had done, Shaw said.

“I was very touched that young children could be so empathetic compared to an adult.”

Bad behavior by parents and other adults outside of children’s sport has been the target of many initiatives, especially amid fears that some will be discouraged from participating.

Only 7 per cent of more than 900,000 New Zealand children and adolescents aged 5 to 18 meet physical activity guidelines, according to figures on the Sport New Zealand website.

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Former All Black Dan Carter (right), pictured with captain Richie McCaw after the All Blacks' 2015 World Cup triumph, has supported initiatives to encourage better behavior by parents while on the sidelines of sporting games of their children.  Photo / Photosport
Former All Black Dan Carter (right), pictured with captain Richie McCaw after the All Blacks’ 2015 World Cup triumph, has supported initiatives to encourage better behavior by parents while on the sidelines of sporting games of their children. Photo / Photosport

In 2016, mother Rochelle Mara called for the lateral abuse against her son Eljae Pukeiti-Mara to stop.

Mara wrote on Facebook about the pain her son felt at being labeled a “big boy” by spectators watching his Manurewa Marlins Under-10 rugby league team. Others said her son was “not an asset to the team.”

Four years later, former All Blacks superstar and father Dan Carter joined several New Zealand athletes in encouraging parents to behave better when watching their children play sports.

“It is important that you not only say the right thing to your children, but also act that way. They learn a lot from your body language or the way you act,” Carter said.

* The national Good Sports program encourages positive sporting experiences for children and young people by supporting and educating the adults who make it possible. Information and resources can be found on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/GoodSportsNZ/.

Cherie Howie is an Auckland-based reporter who joined the Herald in 2011. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and specializes in news and general reporting.

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