Australian swimming legend Libby Trickett has made a desperate plea to all parents.
Penning an open letter to Mamamia, Trickett says there is an “ugly” side to parents at junior sporting events and it is doing untold damage on our children.
Trickett, 38, was a star of the pool in the 2000s and has four Olympic gold medals to her name, was a world champion many times over, and a five-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
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But now she is a loving parent of four children, three girls (Poppy, Edwina and Bronte) and a boy (Alfred) who was born earlier this year.
She has joined a growing chorus of people concerned about the behaviour of parents at sporting events which recently saw one football league in Melbourne ban them from joining the coach huddle during breaks.
“Australian parents yelling. Running up and down the sidelines, shouting instructions. Shaking their heads when a ball is dropped. Harassing opposition players, arguing with referees and directing coaches,” she wrote.
Trickett is now a loving parent of four children. Credit: Instagram
“Berating their child when they don’t play well. It’s like some primal switch is flicked and these parents are possessed with the need for their child to be the best and win. It’s ugly, and it’s everywhere you look when it comes to kids’ sports.”
She said when she was swimming she had a clear memory of one “swimming parent” who used to scream wildly during her child’s race.
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She said the parent had “almost zero control over her behaviour” and when her daughter arrived after competing, she would berate her for not getting a PB or for talking too much.
“When I was a child and watching this play out, I didn’t have the words to understand why this was wrong, but every time I saw this woman I would cringe and was incredibly grateful that she wasn’t my parent. What do you think happened to that little swimmer? That’s right, she dropped out of the sport,” she wrote.
Trickett said there were so many benefits for children to play sport — including mental health — it was important for parents to try and keep them participating for as long as possible.
“So, I want you to do less. By all means, go to sport. Watch your kids play. But don’t get involved. You don’t need to coach them — that’s the coach’s job,” she said.
“Give the team a clap if they score a goal or win a point, cheer a little if you see great athleticism. And then, say nothing. Watch your child, talk to the other parents, and keep your opinions to yourself.”
She said you could not contain yourself, “just don’t go to the event”, and revealed that was a strategy she implemented on herself “from time to time” because she was also not immune to yelling “suggestions” to her kids.
She said the best way to support teenagers in sport was to make sure they could always get to training, help find them social teams that appeal to their level of competitiveness, and “say less on the sidelines and in the car on the way home”.