GRASSROOTS sports participation experts say senior athletes, from community to elite levels, need to better understand the big impact of their behaviour on your players and fans. This becomes particularly imperative amid the growth in female sporting opportunities.
In a dark start to the week, the Australian men’s basketball team made international headlines for becoming embroiled in a mid-match brawl during a clash against the Philippines in a FIBA World Cup qualifier on Monday night. Former Ballarat Miner Nathan Sobey was assaulted on court.
This follows an on-field riot after the final siren in a Ballarat Football League senior match at the weekend, sparked when a fan hurled abuse at an umpire at Darley Park. Nearby in Melton, an under-18 coach was sacked after a physical altercation with a player.
VicHealth physical activity manager Rayoni Nelson said violent behaviour in sport was unacceptable and sends a message violence was an accepted, or even expected, part of the game.
“We know that young players look up to their sporting role models, including senior leaders at their local clubs, and this influences them to play sport and display positive behaviour on and off the field,” Ms Nelson said. “Considering the decline in children’s physical activity levels it’s important we encourage kids to play sport rather than turn them off club sport because of bad behaviour.”
Ms Nelson said not everyone had the same opportunities to get involved in sport. VicHealth research showed more than half of Victorian women find spotrs clubs intimidating and one in three believe sports clubs were not welcoming for “people like them”.
”Sport has the power to create positive social change – including promoting a culture of respect and non-violence,” Ms Nelson said. “Community sport provides many benefits to individuals and local communities, such as improving people’s physical and mental health and offering opportunities for social connection.”
VicHealth supports the Victorian government’s new Fair Play Code rollout, which has a stronger focus on integrity, respect, fairness and safety. In Ballarat, Sports Central will be working to make sure all sports clubs adopt the code.
Sport Central executive officer Michael Flynn said this was a holistic approach to cover spectator, player, officials and members in the game. Mr Flynn said the code to work, it must be embrace and lived by example from all senior players and officials.
“Community sport needs positive leaders, not just one or two, promoted and supported,” Mr Flynn said. “There are far more good and positive leaders and unfortunately they don’t get the same attention when incidents happen. There is a real growth in non-traditional female sport and these sports need to be encouraging, otherwise they will move away to something else. Leadership within community sport really drives culture.
“Basketball has been a sport leading the way in equal opportunity for boys and girls. This (brawl) has not been a good reflection on a sport that has always been about playing hard but fair. I’d hate to see that change.”
Basketball Australia chief Anthony Moore, who fronted media on Tuesday, said the Boomers would take a black eye around the world as video spreads.
“It’s a setback for us. A dark day,” Moore said.
“At grassroots level the sport in terrific shape, we have record numbers playing but we are on the front page today because of a pretty ugly incident and we need to work hard to repair that image.”