Sport New Zealand's boss is warning parents against "hijacking" children's Saturday sport by abusing and attacking players, officials and the opposition following recent incidents on the sidelines.
Last Saturday, a 14-year-old was knocked unconscious during a mass brawl involving up to 50 players and spectators following an under-15 rugby match between Otahuhu College and Tangaroa College.
Two weeks earlier, a referee was "blindsided" and tackled by an 11-year-old player, during an under-12 open grade game between Papatoetoe Rugby Football Club and Marist Eastern at the Papatoetoe Sports Grounds. That prompted calls for parents on the sideline to set a better example.
Heading into another busy weekend of sport around the country, Sport New Zealand Chief Executive Peter Miskimmin is reminding parents and other supporters to be mindful of their behaviour on the sidelines.
Mr Miskimmin says there's simply no place for any sort of abuse or violence in sport, particularly children's sport.
"Playing Saturday morning sport is a rite of passage for most Kiwi kids, and it should be a positive experience for them. It's unacceptable that some adults are hijacking that, by abusing and attacking players, officials and the opposition," he says.
Everyone involved in sport has a responsibility to ensure that the experience - from the playground to top level sport - is a positive one for all involved, Mr Miskimmin says.
"Sport makes a huge positive contribution to New Zealand and New Zealanders, and incidents like these undermine that. They could turn young people off sport and that would be extremely sad, because sport should actually enrich their lives."
Mr Miskimmin says a lot of good work is being done to promote appropriate sideline behaviour, including New Zealand Rugby's APPLAUD campaign which features Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams as ambassadors.
"The emphasis for young people's sport should be on fun, challenge, development of skills and social connections. They need to learn to win and lose well," Mr Miskimmin says. "As parents and supporters we need to keep that in mind, and take the opportunity to remind each other if we see that behaviour emerging."
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