Ange Postecoglou has played for Australia and coached his country at a World Cup.
But his football dream nearly ended early, when a fight broke out on the sidelines of a match he was playing in as a child.
That is why he has put his support behind the new campaign called ‘Let Kids be Kids’.
Postecoglou says his early experiences are something he did not enjoy and something he wants to stop from happening in the future.
“It’s really important that we never forget the impact that we do have on young children when they’re playing sport. I mean, a big part of it is just the experience they have, and, you know, we have a responsibility as the adults to make sure that environment and that experience is a positive one.”
Along with the Australian Sports Commission, 19 other organisations across the country have put their support behind the campaign aimed at all youth sport, not just football.
They say they hope the scheme will educate parents and coaches alike.
Cricketer Usman Khawaja and former AFL player Nick Dal Santo are just two of the other big sporting names to join the campaign.
Former Socceroo captain Alex Tobin says coaches must lead the way because parents often take their cues from them.
Tobin says parents need to stay passionate about their children’s sport but must be aware of the boundaries.
“When you often have coaches behaving like that, you’ll often see the parents behaving like it behind. Why? Because you’ve set the tone, I guess. So we would always hope that the coaches are at their best behaviours. When that’s done and the coaches have spoken to their parents, usually parents aren’t the issue at all.”
The situation is some sports is so bad that new technology is being used to try to stop such behaviour.
Peter Downs, manager of Play By the Rules, the organisation overseeing the Let Kids Be Kids campaign, explains.
“Some clubs are equipping young junior officials with GoPro cameras around their necks to be able to record incidents of abuse to have a record of them themselves. So, some clubs are going to some fairly big extremes to try to combat this sort of behaviour.”
The damaging effect of aggressive behaviour is made clear by online videos that include children talking about the negative effect it has on them.
For Postecoglou, the importance of the campaign cannot be underestimated.
He says his painful personal memories are a constant reminder of the importance of stamping out antisocial behaviour on the sidelines.
“So often, I look back on my junior days and some of the most memorable moments weren’t good ones.”