On a number of occasions I have expressed concern at the behaviour of parents and coaches at mini rugby games and the way many clubs are trying to combat the unacceptable face of the game at kids level.
In Sweden they have experienced similar problems at junior football and are trying to stop it at an early stage –
In Sweden this year the main three Stockholm clubs suspected as much and asked for a survey into how prevalent this problem is and, more importantly, how it is affecting the children. The results were staggering.
It transpired that one in three children had considered quitting the game because of what the survey called “over-engaged” parents. Of the 1,016 adults who answered the survey, 83% said they had seen parents who were pushing their children too much or criticised young referees and officials loudly.
The three Stockholm clubs – Djurgarden, AIK and Hammarby, who had commissioned the survey together with Volkswagen – were appalled by the numbers and decided to act.
The clubs do not always see eye to eye (or at least their fans don’t) but they immediately joined forces to launch an initiative to combat the problem. They sat down together and came up with a short yet encompassing “football code” that they hope will lead to a change in behaviour by adults watching youth football.
The code reads as follows: “I, as a parent, will do everything I can to support my child, other children, club staff, referees and parents in training and at games – through a positive involvement.”
A simple idea – but one that seems to be working –
The response has been incredible. More than 1,600 parents have signed up to the code and more are doing so by the day. Parents have also asked the clubs to print the code on T-shirts so that the message can be shared more widely. Other top-flight clubs in Sweden have expressed an interest in joining the initiative.
Rugby at mini level might try the same thing – as it is a worldwide problem maybe World Rugby should get involved rather than leaving it to individual clubs to address.