Parents and coaches need to cop on

Answer this honestly. And no hiding here please.

Just look in the mirror - reflect calmly, and ask yourself this simple question.

'Am I one of those parents who scream and shout their heads off and become totally irrational, subjective and embarrassing at underage games in which my children are involved?'

Or alternatively, 'Am I an underage coach who things he or she is Martin O'Neill or Roy Keane in the European Championships against Sweden, or Davey Fitzgerald in a Munster hurling final, and rant and rage against the referee, and the opposition like a crazy fish monger?'

If the answer is yes to either of the above, then you need to cop on and stop trying to live out your sporting fantasies, or perhaps trying to rectify your own failures, through your own youngsters or the children you coach.

The reason this kind of undesirable and at times deplorable behaviour is so fresh in my mind is that only this week our local u-12 camogie team played a well known and very strong hurling club in a county quarter-final.

Now keep in mind this was u-12 camogie and a long way from the top division in the county too, and some of the girls on the pitch were just nine years of age and only in third and fourth class.

Every club has its own fair share of members who could have been extras in One flew over the Cuckoos Nest, but to hear some of the shouting and ranting from some of the parents and supporters was tough going.

Big middle aged men shouting at young children is unseemly

A few of these fine big middle-aged men on the opposition sideline felt the need to encroach the pitch by 15 or 20 yards - and I am being honest here, in an u-12 game, that really got on my goat and made me want to race across and ask them why were they not playing with their Junior Bs or Cs if they wanted to be on the pitch so much.

Of course, no more than if you go arguing with a drunk, sinking to that level of behaviour only leads to serious confrontation - hardly the example anyone should be setting for youngsters.

The GAA had a policy for a while of watching underage games in silence and just letting the youngsters enjoy running around and doing their best. Winning or losing at that age is neither here nor there.

Surely, enjoyment for the children and skill development has to be the key objective and the overriding plan of all underage coaching and games.

I genuinely hated my coaches shouting at me when I was playing underage sport and even adult football, hurling or soccer.

To all those parents and coaches who will be involved in underage games and coaching this weekend - just ask the children if they enjoy being shouted at and cajoled on an ongoing basis, and if they do not, why don't you change your behaviour?

You are the problem. Not the children.

My own eldest daughter had this conversation with me in the car a few years ago going to a game.

"Dad will you do me a favour today at the game?" she asked.

"Sure" - I replied.

"Can you not shout out at me. Just don't shout at all, good or bad. And let me enjoy the game and do my best."

That, my friends, was the last time I have shouted directly out to any of my children during a match or training.

I try to keep all my contributions now at underage level to a simple.

"Come on Moycullen, or Corofin or Galway".

Think about it.

If they don't want to hear your voice, or hear your robust encouragement or ranting at the referee, why are you doing it?

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