Fitzsimons, P. (05/06/1997). Sydney Morning Herald.

THERE IS madness in the air. On one field, schoolboys are going at each other like drunken sailors in a Marseilles dockyard brawl; on another, parents and spectators are beating to a bloody pulp a linesman with whom they disagree; on thousands of scattered fields, lesser atrocities are happening all the time.

Clearly, somewhere or other, we've lost the plot, or the plot's lost us, or some damn thing, but the times are out of joint when the whole sense of "the game for the game's sake" has died like a dog in the street.

With that in mind, I re-offer here a Code for Children's Sport I came across long ago, which was developed in New Zealand by the Wellington Rugby Union to provide much-needed compass points to prevent people becoming lost in the youthful sporting jungle. It has been so successful in changing the culture in which the game is played there, that it has since been translated and duplicated around the world in adapted forms.

Having taken the liberty of rejigging it for all sports, it looks like this:


  1. Do not force an unwilling child to participate in sport.
  2. Remember, children are involved in sport for their enjoyment, not yours.
  3. Encourage your child always to play by the rules.
  4. Teach your child that honest effort is as important as victory so that the result of each game is accepted without undue disappointment. Never ridicule or yell at your child for making a mistake and losing a game.
  5. Applaud good play by your team and by members of the opposing team. Do not publicly question the referee or umpire's judgment and NEVER his/her honesty.
  6. Support all efforts to remove verbal and physical abuse from children's sport.
  7. Recognize the value and importance of volunteer coaches. They give up their time and resources to provide recreational activities for your child.

So far so good? My guess is that if you haven't been involved in children's sport, you're finding it a bit trite - whereas if you have, you already have a particular parent in mind whose nose you'd like to jam it up. Actually, make that: whose pocket you'd like to slip it into.


  1. Be reasonable in your demands on the players' time, energy, and enthusiasm. Remember they have other interests.
  2. Teach your players that the rules of the game are mutual agreements that no one should evade or break.
  3. Avoid over-playing the talented players. The "just average" players need and deserve equal time.
  4. Remember children play for fun and enjoyment and that winning is only part of it. Never ridicule or yell at the children for making mistakes or losing a game.
  5. The scheduling and length of practice times and games should take into consideration the maturity level of the children.
  6. Develop team respect for the ability of the opponents, as well as for the judgment of referees and opposing coaches.
  7. Always follow the advice of a doctor in determining when an injured player is ready to play again.

All you demons got that?

Now to the players. A first bit of advice has to be: forget all the really serious stuff you often see on TV - there'll be plenty of time for that when you get older. The following code may not be the way we adults always behave, but it's at least the way most of us started out.


  1. Play for the fun of it, not just to please your parents or coach.
  2. Play by the rules, and never argue with the referee's decisions. Let your captain or coach ask any necessary questions.
  3. Control your temper. No mouthing off.
  4. Treat all players as you would like to be treated. Don't interfere with, bully, or take unfair advantage of any players.
  5. Remember that the goals of the game are to have fun, improve your skills, and feel good. Don't be a show-off or always try to get the most points.
  6. Co-operate with your coach, teammates, and opponents, for without them you don't have a game.

All up, cherish childhood and teenage sport for what it is - fun. No more, no less. If they're telling you any different, the problem is theirs, not yours.

And stop belting other blokes. I know it seems like a good idea at the time, but it looks very ordinary on the evening news.

Trust me, I know.

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