Home Opinion and Features The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

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It’s alarming that more and more often we are seeing reports of assaults – both verbal and physical – directed at sports referees, writes Dane van der Lith.

Referees are currently under the spotlight after several of them have been abused. Picture: Danie van der Lith

WHO ELSE thinks that it’s alarming that more and more often we are seeing reports of assaults – both verbal and physical – directed at sports referees? These days it’s all over the news and on social media, so you can’t really miss it.

We have heard of veteran referees hanging up their boots and putting their whistles in their pockets for the last time after being involved in – and loving – a particular sport for over 20 years.

We have seen referees being physically assaulted by spectators, parents, coaches, and worst of all, by school pupils. We have seen a “bounty” offered to people at a rugby game, where they will receive a “reward” of R1,000 if they tackle the referee.

My question is: When did this behaviour become socially acceptable? When did it become OK for a person to run onto a sports field, insult and physically attack another human being because the game didn’t go their way?

The answer is NEVER.

When I was growing up, my parents taught me to respect my elders; to shake a person’s hand and to respect people around me. These days, as an adult, I realise why my parents hammered so hard on that. And now I can fully understand and appreciate what they taught me.

I was also taught that if you don’t respect yourself first, you won’t be able to respect someone else, and that is how I will teach my children.

I also understand that to “adult” every day is not easy. Life is hard man, with the way petrol prices are climbing, food prices are soaring, not having a job, or employers not being able to give increases or bonuses, life is hard, I get it.

We have so much going on every day, so much to think about, so much to remember, so much to worry about, and all of that “adulting” takes a toll on us physically as well as mentally … not to mention emotionally.

In general, people don’t like talking about what is going on in their lives or what is bothering them. And while we keep all these emotions buried deep down, it starts eating away at our joy and our happiness and starts building an ugly force of destruction, ready to explode at any moment.

We slowly, and without realising it, start embracing the darkness. We don’t smile as much anymore, we don’t laugh as much anymore and we feel more comfortable being alone. So I understand why people get frustrated and angry. Many times I have thought to myself, ‘vir jou gaan ek m**r’, but I know doing so is wrong.

Looking at the recent video that has been circulating on social media regarding the Daniëlskuil assault, where parents, coaches, and high school pupils attacked a referee, it saddened me to see what kind of an example some parents are setting for their children.

The same parent that should influence a young mind as to the right way of doing things, the parent that should teach their child that violence won’t fix a problem was setting the opposite example on that rugby field. And looking at the world around me lately, I am realising that some parents are not teaching their children these, wholesome, healing skills.

I realise that parents don’t speak to their children very much anymore. Why? It’s pretty obvious that technology is stealing that time from them, so the only way a child can be taught is to look at what the parents do and how the parents handle things in life.

Far too many children are being left to learn to grow up by themselves.

What those grown-ups in Daniëlskuil taught their children that day was that if you are not happy, you need to get violent and physical.

“Listen, my child, we don’t talk things through as adults. No … we fight when we are angry.”

Children, as their impressionable minds are being formed, and seeing their parents handling situations like that, will grow into adults that only know one way of solving a problem – “skop, skiet en special effects!”

The old saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” will come home to roost. Your children will eventually walk like you, talk like you and eventually fight like you.

There could be another option. Over weekends, you could take the time to relax a little. Spend time with your children, attend a sports game and enjoy watching your child being privileged enough to play a sport.

Yes, we all want our children to win, but if they don’t then there is always the next time.

There is no reason or excuse to assault – or abuse in any way – anybody, on or off the field.

A friend of mine recently mentioned something to me after viewing the now-infamous Daniëlskuil assault video. He said: “It is becoming painfully obvious that the love of the game has been replaced by the lust for victory at all costs”. Those words describe the situation so well.

We are human and we make mistakes, but are we “adult” enough to stand up and say ‘I am sorry for what I did, I was wrong’. Because by doing so, and only by doing so, are we teaching, influencing and guiding our children on how to “adult”.

So what to do if I have been getting it wrong? What if I have been setting a poor example to my watching children? Well, for me, I have a mantra that I keep rolling around in my head. It goes, “Every day the sun rises and God gives us another day, another day to start over and to try again.”

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