If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it!

Last fortnight I saw one of the best campaigns promoted from one of our local soccer (aka Football) associations. It brought home the message, that the majority of young local sport referees have parents who are also there at the games. If they are anything like me, they’re probably biting their tongues.

It is not unusual to hear other parents and coaches query the referees decision. No one is going to like every decision, and at times referees and umpires make the wrong call. Look what happened to Henry Perenara in the NRL last Friday awarding a try that wasn’t a try and the NRL bunker referees earlier on in the year all stepped down after their misjudgement during Dragons vs Sharks game.*

As a player, it was drilled into me not to query the umpires decision and to just get on with the game. Being a defence in netball, quite often I queried (in my head) what some umpires considered 3 feet. Nevertheless, not once in my netball career did I say it out loud to the umpire.

I did however speak up in my soccer game (women’s over 35) two weeks ago when our opponents started saying to the referee that the young girl doing the lines had made the wrong decision. This happened to be the same week that the promotion had come out. I simply turned to the “ladies” who were being vocal and said, “They are the referees, the decision has been made. Leave it alone now, this is someone’s daughter…I wouldn’t like it if you were having a go at mine!” That seemed to shut them up quite nicely.

Really though, these were fellow mums out there. You would think if there were any players who would be more compassionate and tolerant of what they see as “poor decisions” (particularly by children), it should be them. Perhaps people just get so caught up in the game, all their morals get side tracked just for the sake of winning.

Winning what though? These are local, social competitions….. and don’t even get me started on some of the behaviour from the over 35’s men’s teams.

What makes my heart sink though, is hearing instances of parents behaving badly at children’s sports games. Negative comments made toward the opposition, the referees/umpires and even some of the players in their child’s team!

My sister forwarded me on a letter that a young coach had sent to all the parents of her daughter’s netball team. Among other things, it made it VERY clear that the parents should only say positive things on the side line and not to approach other children with “advice”. The advice giving should be left for the coach. Less than a day after that note, one of the parents was huffing and puffing on the sideline about the team losing the ball, another was making derogatory comments about the umpire. And to my sister’s surprise, a fellow parent went up to my niece and said “when you are defending, you need to look where the ball is coming from”.

For any sporting parent out there, don’t tell me you haven’t heard of any similar situations. I see it almost every week.

Seriously, show some respect! Our children’s lives are precious, we want them to enjoy sport. We want them to continue to be physically active, particularly in a world with increasing childhood obesity. My main advice to my kids when playing sport, is to have fun. How fun can it be if you are hearing negative comments on the sideline, whether it’s about your play, your opponents and/or the referee’s decisions.

Lastly, and yes it is personal for me with my child also being a referee, show gratitude and respect for the umpires and referees. I am sure that most of you growing up would have heard this, particularly from your mums. “If you do not have anything nice to say…just don’t say it! “ * https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-26/nrl-admits-bunker-error-stands-down-referees-dragons-sharks/12492930

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.