Bad Behaviour | Club Respect Bad Behaviour | Club Respect

It’s not easy, but bad behaviour needs to be called out. The bad behaviour of some people at your club is distressing for many. There should be no excuses made for people who choose to behave poorly. When it’s not addressed properly it can mean:

  • Physical or emotional trauma caused to an individual or group
  • Negative modeling to young people and a bit (or a lot) of ‘follow the leader’
  • Translation of bad behavior into homes, workplaces and relationships      
  • General unrest and dissatisfaction among members
  • Decreased participation of volunteers
  • Loss of players
  • Declining membership
  • Difficulty attracting new members
  • Difficulty attracting sponsorship.

Overall, word gets out, and the image of your club tarnishes in the wider community. So, what can you do? There are strategies that you and your club can adopt to deal with bad behaviours, safely and constructively. We’ve tailored these to specific people in the club, with whom you might be having the issue.

How to safely challenge abusive behaviour at your sports club

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  • Coaches Behaving Badly

    They’re so in the spotlight that their bad behaviour is noticed. If not witnessed first-hand, you see it in the people they coach. Signs of coaches behaving badly:

    • They yell and scream at players
    • They think nothing about being abusive to those around them
    • They’re over-involved in the game
    • They cause players to become emotionally over-aroused 
    • They misread success markers, thinking hype and aggression wins out over cool-headed tactics and composure
    • They think they’re bigger than the club, hard to reign in
    • They’re indifferent to constructive feedback.

    Some coaches believe that to get the best out of their players, they need to be tough, talk tough and act tough. This is counter-productive, particularly for junior players. To challenge bullying, yelling & disrespectful behaviour:

    • Every coach who volunteers to take on a team will have been made aware of the club’s expectations of coaches
    • There is a clear and known process for complaints to be registered
    • The club will continually emphasise the ideas of sport being about fun, development & inclusion as well as about prowess and success
    • Some education for new coaches is worthwhile if the club has the resources and personnel to provide it. If an actual training session isn’t possible the club, at the very least, needs to be able to provide each coach with a handout/manual that outlines the expectations of the club in terms of behaviour;
    • The manual needs to emphasise fun and involvement of the young players & include some expert tips, including the idea that yelling at players, making negative comments, being angry etc, is totally counter-productive and can, in fact, lead to young people losing their interest in the club or the sport. Club Respect Advice:

    Step 1:  

    • It’s best not to work alone, you’ll need the support of others to make your case to this coach.
    • Talk constructively with others connected to the club (parents, supporters) to gauge their feelings and perspectives on the way the coach is behaving.
    • Find a time for discussion before or after training, don’t approach the coach on game day.

    Step 2: 

    • There’s no substitute for working with reliable evidence and established facts. Do your homework beforehand to use as a reference point when the time comes. It will be much more effective and disarming than finger pointing or even ‘I feel’ statements. You can talk about the evidence-based things you’ve read as if you merely found it interesting and thought they might too.

    Step 3: 

    • Familiarise yourself with any club coaching policies. You would expect this type of behaviour to be in breach of club expectations.

    Step 4:

    • If you don’t feel confident approaching the coach then take your concerns to the club committee. You should be able to speak personally to them, in confidence, or should be able to follow anonymous club complaint process.

    Club Respect Smart Steps will help.

  • Parents Behaving Badly

    You know them. The pushy, undermining and abusive parents. 

    The Pushy Parents

    The hallmarks of a pushy parent:

    • They’re loud
    • They want their child on court all game in the position they think is best
    • They insist that the club listens to, and acts on, their concerns only
    • They don’t appreciate ‘team’ at all- they only see ‘my’ child, ‘my’ concerns, ‘my’ preference.

    These parents see their child as being the best in the team/club and are convinced she/he will go on to national level sporting achievement. These parents want their child to always be selected, to always be on the ground and to always be playing in the position of their choice. The best way to challenge the pushy parent:  

    • This parent can be referred to the club’s Team Selection Policy (see Favouritsm section), which will spell out the process in line with the values and ethos of the club. This team selection process is made clear to everyone at the start of each season via the club website, the sign-up paperwork and the club messaging.
    • Parents also need to understand that junior sporting prowess rarely translates to senior sporting stardom. Research tells us that of 200 under 14 kids, for instance, it’s lucky if ONE gets to play at national level.
    • The emphasis should always be on, ‘team’, ‘we’, ‘the club’, rather than individuals.

    The Undermining Parents

    The hallmarks of an undermining parent:

    • Not usually loud, but toxic
    • They whisper or gossip to manipulate situations to get what they want
    • They try to control to their advantage by pitting member against member, parent against parent, parent against coach
    • They want everything to go their way
    • They’re not interested in the bigger picture or the greater club good.

    These parents think it is OK to offer loud and unwanted advice, suggestions & criticism during play. This is not only distracting for the coach, but positively harmful when comments become abusive. To challenge the undermining parents:  

    • Decisions made by coaches, (in line with the codes of the club), must be supported by the club.
    • Coaches need to be protected from parents during matches. Establish a no-go zone around the coach during game time.
    • Club’s need to constantly emphasise the fact that the coaches are all volunteers; they are giving up their time and using their expertise to help young people participate in, and enjoy, their sport.
    • Explicit messaging from the club, not to approach the coach or team during play. As per the Abusive Parent a club official or other club member should approach the parent to tone down their behaviour.

    The Abusive Parents

    The hallmarks of an abusive parent:

    • Loud, intimidating and potentially frightening
    • These parents use a barrage of abuse to get what they want on and off the field
    • They’re abusive to opposition teams as well as their own club and team members.
    • Their opinion is always greater than others
    • They are too often abusive toward their own children and other family members.

    These parents are angry at their child, or the team, or the refs, or the coach or the opposition. To challenge abusive parents place signs around the ground and in the club rooms promoting and reinforcing the values of the club. The key messages of these signs are:

    • That yelling and abuse actively harm performance
    • That a parent’s role is to encourage and support every player on the field
    • That sport is about enjoyment and fun for all
    • That referees, umpires and coaches are all volunteers
    • That there’s a good chance you are seriously embarrassing your child
    • Armed with the support of the club’s messaging and its stated values, a club official, (or willing upstander), needs to approach the parent and de-escalate the situation.

    Club Respect Smart Steps will help.

  • Players Behaving Badly

    They play for themselves, not the team.

    • They can be arrogant in victory, childish & sullen in defeat.
    • They see nothing wrong with playing outside of the rules.
    • On-field, they’re known to sledge their opposition. Nothing is sacred and anything goes.  
    • Off-field, they can bend or break club rules.  
    • They find it hard to take responsibility for their actions.
    • They give their team and club a bad name.
    • They create a lot of work for others.
    • Their bad behaviour can undo or destroy a club’s positive culture.

    If a club doesn’t sanction properly, especially if the player has star status, others are upset. It looks as though there’s one rule for the player behaving badly and one rule for others.

    If you’re concerned with the lack of sanction of players who behave badly, you have to take this up with the committee. Advice for dealing with this player:

    • It’s best not to work alone. Get the support of others who are also dissatisfied with the lack of sanctions for this player/s.
    • Talk constructively with others connected to the club (parents, supporters) to gauge their feelings and perspectives on the way club is handling the situation.
    • Look through the club Code of Conduct to identify the processes that are expected to be taken by the club.
    • Together, take your concerns to the club committee. You should be able to speak personally to them, in confidence, or should be able to follow an anonymous club complaint process.

    Club Respect Smart Steps will help.

  • Supporters Behaving Badly

    We’ve all come across them.

    • They can be your club members or spectators.
    • They can come from the visiting club.
    • These people, both men and women, are outwardly offensive.
    • No one’s off-limits – other adults around them, coaches, referees, their own team members or the opposition, even kids playing.
    • They sledge, scream and hurl abuse.
    • Their bad behaviour worsens with alcohol.
    • They’re irritating, annoying, they can get under your skin.
    • They can be distressing and menacing.
    • People become uncomfortable and move away, unsure as to the best way of dealing with this behaviour
    • Their bad behaviour goes unchecked, so does their negative role-modelling.

    Club Respect Smart Steps will help.

  • Abuse of match officials

    We see it all the time. Coaches, supporters or players yelling and screaming at the referee or umpire. It’s almost as if our society has given permission to people to treat referees with a level of disrespect that wouldn’t be tolerated anywhere else in our community.

    This has to change. We’re continuously seeing junior and senior referees traumatised by the abuse, to the point that they can’t continue in their role.

    Club Respect believes that the way people treat referees is a good measure of where a club is at in relation to having a culture of respect, safety, fun, fairness and success. When abuse of referees is not addressed properly, you’re risking:

    • Physical or emotional trauma for the referee
    • Difficulty recruiting referees to adjudicate games
    • Adoption of bad behaviour by others
    • Negative modeling to young people
    • A tarnished image of your club in the wider community.

    So, what can you do?

    1. Start with yourself. Observe your own actions and correct them if you find yourself conditioned to abuse the umpire.
    2. Speak out. If it is safe to do so, let others know that their abuse toward the referee is unfair and causes harm.

    People will back you up. It’s often that people are afraid to be the first and only. This is always going to be better handled when the club has made it clear that it’s not part of the club ethos. A zero-tolerance policy and clear signs around the club and its playing spaces to that effect, will spread that message.

    Spectator abusing the referee

    • Prominent clear signage at the ground as to zero tolerance of this behaviour.
    • Spectators indulging in abusive harassment of any umpire or referee, to be approached by a club official or member and requested to stop.
    • Continued abuse may need stronger action from security personnel and require the offender to be escorted from the ground for that day.

    Club players abusing the match officials

    • All your club players will have signed up to your Code of Conduct at the beginning of the season. They know it’s unacceptable.
    • If such behaviour does occur by a player, then swift and firm action must be taken. A player abusing a referee or umpire needs to be taken off the ground for the remainder of the game.
    • When tempers cool, a quiet and private chat, needs to take place between the player and the coach, to remind the player of the club values.
    • An offer can be made to the player of strategies for the player to use to control and change their behaviour.
    • Having one of the club’s referees present can be useful to give their perspective of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of abuse.

    Opposition players abusing the match officials

    • Their coach, and/or team manager, needs to be approached and encouraged to remove the offending player from the ground for the remainder of the game.
    • The signage on display at the ground will add weight to your request.
    • Their player must understand that at your club, abuse of umpires is considered an unacceptable behaviour that can never be tolerated or justified.

    Club Respect Smart Steps will help.