My son has played Australian Rules Football for the last four years. He isn’t amazing at it, but he loved the camaraderie and the friendships created.
Then slowly the culture of having fun on the field went MIA and the bullshit began.
This year I have witnessed a senior TV executive and coach call his Under 12 team ‘a bunch of girls’ and ask ‘if they playing netball’, and then finish with the term, ‘are you all poofs?’
When this was reported to the senior team management, nothing was done. When questioned again about what was happening with the complaint, nothing was done.
I saw bullying of a mentally ill parent, who clearly had issues and huge struggles and was pushed to the sidelines, the only support given by my husband (Team Manager) who valiantly advocated for her and her child, when she couldn’t.
I saw lazy parents, not bothered to do their required tasks for the weekends. Several weekends in a row, the boys went without oranges and snacks for halftime because parents ‘forgot’. The same parents who screamed from the the sidelines to win.
I saw parents verbally abusing 14 year old umpires till they were in tears.
I saw children bullied by parents, and the children then taking enormous risks on fields for the Holy Grail of a plastic trophy.
I saw the same parents step up every week and do their jobs, without complaint, but slowly it wore them down.
I saw parents taking it far too seriously. I saw fear in children’s eyes as they faced their fathers after they missed a shot at goal or a mark.
I saw casual and accepted racism from parents towards an African child playing on another team.
Once AFL was fun, now it’s an industry and it has leaked down into the smaller, junior clubs.
The misogyny, the racism, the win at all costs attitude isn’t for me or for my son.
Each Sunday came towards him like a punishment. He hated it, we hated it, but we committed for the year.
When the season finished and he knew he was free, stress levels lowered considerably in our house.
I want to state we had a great coach, and there were some good eggs on the team, but this wasn’t about the individuals, it’s about the culture. The lack of putting in but expecting everything in return. The fish stinks at the head, as the old saying goes and I wonder when AFL will learn they are losing wonderful kids to other sports because of the culture at the top and in the local clubs.
I know several parents now who refuse to let their kids play AFL. Why should they? You have rape charges, drug charges, domestic battery and sill they play on, some even become TV presenters.
The AFL seems to have a set of rules created by Lance Armstrong. Lie, cheat and then shrug when you’re caught. Why on earth would you want your child to be immersed in that?
My child will not be playing AFL again.