The state’s sports grounds are an ideal place to teach young people life lessons and key to reversing community and family violence, experts say.

Junior sporting clubs are the ideal setting to teach youngsters about respect and healthy relationships, a leading South Australian voice on anti-violence and bullying says.
Sammy D Foundation GM Brigid Koenig, revealing to the Sunday Mail a new partnership with Rugby SA, said it was vital young people were provided with the tools to make positive life decisions, to help build a better community.

“(With) 1.7 million children aged five to 14 engaged in sport nationally, sporting clubs are well placed to contribute to the education and harm prevention of young people … to lead conversations and role model behaviour to stamp out community violence and inappropriate behaviour,” Ms Koenig said.

“Sporting clubs are a microcosm of the community, by educating and empowering young people with the right tools to make the right decisions, we will set them up for a great future.”

Beginning this month, Rugby SA’s 1100 juniors and their parents will take part in workshops aimed at eliminating inappropriate and dangerous behaviour on and off the field.

Rugby players Shylah Potter, 12, and Dylan Peters, 13. Photo: The Advertiser/ Morgan Sette.
A focus for parents will be on proper sideline behaviour as well as how to talk and interact with kids after a game, Ms Koenig said.

“As a parent, we should focus on reinforcing these positive messages and encourage our kids to have fun (because) we want to keep them engaged and playing … we know participation rates drop off during the teenage years,” Ms Koenig said.

The anti-violence not-for-profit has previously worked with SANFL clubs and Baseball SA.

Rugby SA CEO Carl Jones agreed sporting clubs provided an ideal learning environment.

“This is the most influential time in a young person’s life in terms of developing their emotional intelligence and we are invested in the development of our young people,” he said.

“What better place than an environment they enjoy being in to get across these important messages, also around mental health?

Rugby Union SA CEO Karl Jones, Sammy D Foundation General Manager Brigid Koenig with rugby players Shylah Potter, 12, and Dylan Peters, 13. The Advertiser/ Morgan Sette.
“We are a sport that runs on really strong values, including respect and teamwork … (to create) better human beings for having beem involved in rugby union.”

Adelaide organisational and performance psychologist Jenny Williams – who represented the state in six sports, including lacrosse, cricket and AFL – said having conversations with junior sportspeople was a good start but the process needed to be embedded in sporting clubs.

“It is a complex area and we need to dig a lot deeper and be regularly running things for groups of young players with really qualified people,” she said.

“As an example, addressing anger management issues and teaching how to handle it through sport, both as an individual and as a whole team, is one of the most valuable things we can do … but it takes practise and we need to be evaluating everything we do, to see if we are actually getting better.”

Car conversations for after a game
HAVE positive conversations with your kids regarding their game, focusing on the game and not the results: “I loved watching you play today, did you enjoy yourself?”

REMIND your kids that bad games happen to everyone, it’s a part of playing sport. The important thing are the lessons learned: “You either win, or you learn.”

AVOID criticising your child’s or team’s performance as this can have a negative impact on your child’s enthusiasm and love for the game.

CHANGE the narrative from results and performance to enjoyment and mateship: “You might not be happy with your game but you looked like you had fun out there with your mates.”

REMEMBER you are the parent, not the coach. Your role isn’t to dissect and criticise performance or passages of play. Children who are pushed beyond their capabilities may lose their self-confidence, become resistant and resentful toward their parents, become unsure of themselves and their abilities, and may stop trying.

CREATE dialogue with your child on the way home, especially if they are particularly quiet. Start by asking if they’re OK? If something is concerning them, work through it together – what was the situation and what can be done to resolve it? Depending on the situation, you may need to involve the coach or club officials.

KEEP in context that the motivating factor for most young people to play sport is to play with friends or to make new ones, to learn new skills, (for) their love of the game and, importantly, to have fun. This is what they consistently say.

– tips from the Sammy D Foundation