Open letter to Heathmont Jets JFC Parents and Supporters

Wayne Judge - Director of Football.

Dear Heathmont Parents and Supporters,

The recent Silent Sunday initiative that the Eastern Football League instituted across Rounds 11 and 12 certainly created plenty of headlines and debate around the country. Our Club, which proudly fully embraced the concept, received plenty of publicity when we featured in a Channel 7 News story about it. Given the fact that the initiative triggered such a response and that it tended to polarise people’s opinions about it, I thought it might be appropriate to provide some further information relating to it and to the broader issue of parental/spectator behaviour at junior sport.

To begin with it is worth noting that “Silent Sidelines” and “Shoosh” campaigns in junior sport have been happening all over the world, including the United States and New Zealand. Research and reports coming out of these two countries indicate that children appreciate these campaigns as it encourages them to speak up to each other, helping them to enjoy the game and have a positive experience.

The objective of these campaigns is to raise awareness to the fact that junior sport is for children to have fun while trying their best without the pressure of winning. They are also designed to highlight and address issues that arise from poor parental and spectator behaviour at junior sport, such as abuse of umpires, officials, players and other spectators. This in turn can result in children and teenagers in particular dropping out of organised sport.

In Australia, we have a real problem in relation to children dropping out of sport. For example, the 2019 Australian Youth Confidence Report indicated that one in every two Australian girls are quitting organised sport by the age of 15. This is a trend that mirrors what's happening in other countries with similarly over-the-top attitudes to children’s sport. A US initiative called the "Changing The Game Project" estimates that 70 per cent of sporty kids in the US quit by the time they are teenagers.