Friendly Fire?

I participated in a local womens over 35’s soccer game on Sunday and the referee kindly explained that he likes to see the game “flow” so he will not pick up things unless there is a “clear disadvantage”. This statement must have been the green light for our opposition (who had a reputation for being rough) to be as “aggressive” as possible. By half time, the ref took the two captains aside and said he wouldn’t tolerate the attitude of either team and that players would be penalised. But after being part of the game (still sporting a bruised arm from the elbows I copped) and watching in almost disbelief at the unnecessary rough contact and comments made by the opposition, the game was not pretty and definitely not enjoyable… and at this age we were VERY lucky no injuries occurred.

They won of course, and it made me think…Is this their strategy? Do they come out this rough to dominate and intimidate? Before you go saying “toughen up princess”, I am a big believer in being competitive ( I am usually able to handle my own), but don’t they realise that these competitions are not about winning fame and fortune and it is more about fun and fitness? Many of these women have children and a full time job…both things not easy to handle if you are out injured (take it from my own experience).

There have been many studies and theories around aggression and violence in sports. Aggression is defined as the infliction of an adverse stimulus, physical, verbal, or gesture, upon one person to another. Aggression is not an attitude, but behaviour and most critically it is committed with the “intent to injure” (LeUnes & Nation, 1989). Most research is based around two main theories, it is either instinct (similar to the “Darwinian” theory where the “fittest survives”) or the socialisation theory (that it is a learned behaviour).

In my opinion, it is a mix of both and I am totally okay with it as long there is no “intent to injure”and it is within the rules of the game. The Australian Sports Commission addressed this issue and growing trend of violence and aggression in sport (mainly occurring in overseas competitions) when they introduced the Aussie Sports Program. Several codes of behaviour were well circulated, particularly among junior sports. This campaign reiterated the fact that sport is for participation, fun and enjoyment and winning at all costs is not everything.

I have seen signs around junior sports reminding parents of the correct way to behave around their child, referees and other spectators. They even have “silence on the sideline” days. I think this needs to be equally addressed for the mature age “social” competitors as well. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I received an email from an over 35’s male player from a local club requesting more players, knowing full well that he had screamed a whole lot of expletives to the linesman whilst playing a game (who was also his team mate and my husband). What made it worse, even though he was warned, he continued to carry on swearing in front of children and families. Needless to say after the language my children picked up that day, I was not keen to let watch their dad play many more games of soccer!

It is nice to see government initiatives in place to address these kind of issues (and I am sure referee courses cover it too), but at the end of the day parents (just like sporting heroes) are role models and they must be mindful of this when they are playing. Show good sportsmanship, have respect for the players and the officials (regardless of whether they are paid or volunteers) and show your kids how you can play competitively within the rules of the game and lead by example!

Yvette Audet

Yvette Audet

Sport has been an integral part of my life, both work and personal. I grew up with sport, met my husband through sport and now as a mother, am involved more than ever in sport!

As a trainer and consultant in the industry I work with sporting groups and councils to create community facilities and partnerships aimed to increase sport participation.

I have created a range of articles from the perspective of a SPORTING MUM. The articles relate life skills and messages that we can get from being involved in sport. It’s uncanny how Sport can mirror life.


Involved in gymnastics, netball and athletics from an early age, Yvette experienced being part of a team as well as the unrelentless discipline in individual sport – in particular her Heptathlon days.

First became a mum in 2005 and remembers having the inner debate of how long should I play netball while pregnant? Doing quick breastfeeds in between netball games and hoping her uterus wouldn’t feel like falling out when she jumped for the ball.

Funny anecdotes aside, she has worked in the sport and recreation industry for almost 30 years and holds several certificates and degrees around the management and training of sport, community recreation, aquatics and fitness.

Through her various roles in profit and non-profit sectors, she has helped plan for programs, events and facilities to help get communities active through sport and recreation.