Sledging is it just socially acceptable bullying?

Maybe I’m totally wrong and I’m way off the mark here but I don’t think that sledging has any part of any game be it cricket, footy, netball etc.  Unless you have been living under a rock you might have heard the furore about the sledging dished out by the Aussie Cricket Team and as I understand quite possibly the English team in return.  The first I’d heard of it was when I read Em Rusciano’s article for Mamamia defending Michael Clarke and his sledging in the test match (you can read her article here: http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/em-rusciano-defends-michael-clarke/)

Just in case you missed it when James Anderson (English bowler) came out to bat and face Mitchell Johnson (who had been bowling particularly well) Michael Clarke (the Aussie captain) in a particularly vicious fashion pointed at James Anderson and said “get ready for a f&$)(;g broken arm”.  This came on the back of David Warner saying in a press conference that the English side was batting with “scared eyes”.  Now I’m sure that the Aussies have been on the receiving end of sledging and I know that some of this over the years has been in particularly poor taste but does that make it right.  Just because everyone does it doesn’t make it acceptable.  
Em went on to describe anyone who complained about sledging as dickheads.  There were many who supported her position and really feel that it has always been a part of the game so stop whining about it and that we are just becoming a nanny state.  
I actually take a very different view of sledging.  I see it as a form of condoned bullying.  I understand that bullying is defined as systematic intimidation between people who are not equal physically, socially or intellectually.  But I would argue that the purpose of sledging is to weaken the opposition and put them off their game.  The thing with sledging is that we never ever know what is happening in a person’s life and whether in fact that sledge is the thing that tips them over the edge.  Take for instance the time that Glenn McGrath sledged an opposition player who retorted with a comment about his late wife not knowing (or perhaps knowing and not caring) that she was at the time undergoing treatment for cancer.  It is said that Glenn lost the plot.  Understandably so, but if he had just done the talking with his bowling and not dished out the sledge first then the situation wouldn’t have degenerated.  

The bigger problem I see with sledging is that whether our elite sportsmen/women like it or not they are role models and looked up to by kids all over the world and these kids want to go on and emulate them.  These people in many instances take huge amounts of money from sponsors because kids love them and so that parents will in turn buy the sponsors equipment.  This puts them in a unique position of wanting the money but not wanting the responsibilities that comes with it.  

Kids unfortunately do not draw the line between they are elite sportspeople who are equal in abilities and I’m playing in a local junior cricket competition and whilst I might be able to bat and bowl the kid I’m bowling to is struggling enough with standing a few short metered away having a hard leather ball bowled at them.  Kids sport typically is not equal abilities, and it is rarely equal in terms of social, physical and intellectual aspects either.  Often times the only factor that ties kids together is their age.  

Equally sledging that happens on sporting fields all around junior sport often is then brought back into school yards.  I’ve seen it happen.  It’s heartbreaking knowing that a child is out their trying their hardest (and let’s face it at least they are having a go) to hear how upset they are by things that are said.  In cricket the rule is that sledging is not tolerated (even at elite levels) but it is up to the batsman to determine that they are feeling intimidated and to ask the umpire to have it stopped.  Great work with that rule it seems a little stupid really they are already feeling intimidated and in front of the people dishing it out they have to ask the umpire to stop the intimidation!!! 

Don’t get me wrong I have over the years chuckled over sledges and there have been some beauties but I think that the world has moved on.  Bullying is no longer acceptable and it was or perhaps not acceptable but certainly an accepted part of growing up.  We were all told to buck up and deal with it. I certainly feel that perhaps we aren’t teaching our kids good resilience skills and that we perhaps need to do some more work in this area.  But I really don’t think that accepting that sledging happens and has always happened is good enough.  Lots of things used to happen and have changed now so why should we continue to accept sledging.  

I’m also of the opinion that not everyone can be man of the match or has the required skills/abilities to be captain but I don’t think that being sledged will help you develop in your given sport.  It is more likely to get kids with lesser abilities to give up.  What happens when in the playground the kids say but it was just a friendly sledge?  Why is it a sledge on the sports ground and acceptable but bullying and unacceptable anywhere else?

The other thing that just doesn’t feel right to me about sledging is that nine times out of ten it is the team that is winning and thus on top that dishes out the most sledges.  Sledging really just looks like bad winners to be honest.  We might need to teach our kids how to be more resilience and how to loose but I also think that to be good parents we need to teach our kids how to be good winners and humble. 

The problem with sledging is that kids just don’t differentiate between when it’s appropriate and when it’s not.  When they see their heroes (rightly or wrongly and probably sportspeople as heroes is a whole other blog) doing it and it being acceptable they want to emulate them.  There were a number of people commenting on Em’s article saying that it is up to parents to teach right from wrong and when it is acceptable and when it isn’t.  You know what I raise my children to know this difference and I have a zero tolerance on it but sadly my kids live in a society where not everyone has the same upbringing or standards as they do, so I also need to teach them how to deal with it.  We might be becoming an over regulated nanny state but sadly when people don’t teach right from wrong and leave it up to everyone else to do that for them I’m not sure what choice there is.  

As an addendum I’ve just heard that Johnathon Trott (English player) has gone home due to a stress related illness so what if it was a sledge that tipped him over the edge?? 


2 thoughts on “Sledging is it just socially acceptable bullying?

  1. Karen Willetts says:

    I'm completely with you on this Cath. “Sledging” in the game of cricket …. hmm, why would we accept name calling, intimidation and threats on a sporting field anymore than we would in other aspects of our lives? Learn to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat and see where that gets you. However given that we see (actually, make that reward) the same behaviours in our elected parliament is it any wonder that it occurs in cricket … but that's another blog – right Cath?

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