This long weekend I've watched three games of juniour soccer and one of rugby league. People watching is another sport in which I have participated at the same time, and it has been, as always, quite fascinating.
There is a soccer competition for four and five year olds which is called mini roos. They play four a side, on a small field with small goals, no referees and no rules. They don't keep score either; it's not competitive. The idea is for the kids to have fun. You should see the hacking that goes on as little feet swing wildly at the ball and whatever else is near the ball. At some stage the children will learn that there is such a thing as a legal tackle and an illegal one: there are rules and their are penalties for breaking the rules. The parents at these games are very supportive of both teams, all the talk for the sidelines is positive and encouraging. I wonder how hard it will be for these little football players to unlearn the 'no rules' game into which they are being indoctrinated.
I also watched an under 14's girls' match. They have rules and referees who enforce the rules albeit inconsistently. The talk from the sidelines is not always positive towards the players, and rarely anything but negative towards the referees. Only those who have refereed know just how hard a job it is. Referee bashing (not physical thankfully) seems to be a sport within sport. Coaches, family, and the players themselves criticize referees often, so players quickly learn to disrespect referees.
There was an incident in today's game in which a player was elbowed in the face. The rules state that this offence is a red card infringement, a send off offence, but the referee merely gave a free kick. The player who was elbowed had to leave the field, but was later able to return to the field. When she was ready to return, the coach instructed her to go after the girl who elbowed her. Revenge.
This is how we teach our children, while we shake our heads at the state of the world, and all its injustice.