Trash talk has been a part of Australian sporting culture for as long as one can remember, but one man is trying to change that with his initiative to teach young athletes to not bring each other down with words and to build a culture of respect.
Mark Wadie set up an initiative called iRespect, to empower young aspiring athletes to tackle two of the biggest obstacles they face — how to stop harmful behaviour and how to effectively speak up when someone you know is being disrespectful or harmful to others.
The initiative is aimed to provide sports coaches with short, positive lessons to give to their teams during training sessions that will slowly change society through their clubs.
Last Tuesday (19 June), the founding director of the iRespect initiative trained and motivated coaches of female teams from all over Canberra at Basketball ACT to teach their players about healthy relationships on and off the court.
“We want to set up a culture of integrity and respect and to teach kids to look out for each other emotionally and to call each other out and to hold each other to account,” Mr Wadie said.
“Instead of trash talking teammates and opposition, we want to teach kids to celebrate each other’s strengths and play with respect.
“Coaches are in a key position to positively influence how young people think and behave, both on and off the field. Teenagers look to people outside of their home and their classroom for wisdom from a responsible adult and coaches are one of those people that can have a positive effect on young athletes.”
“The more teams learn these skills of respect, the closer we come to ending the cycle of disrespect, gender inequality and domestic abuse that we battle with today.”
iRespect has partnered with clubs across Canberra such as ANU Owls, Eastlake AFL Club, Woden Valley Soccer Club, Uni Norths Rugby Club and the Canberra Raiders to teach respectful and positive behaviour.
CEO of Basketball ACT, Michael Haynes, said the program had helped coaches and kids tackle some of the big social issues they are facing.
“iRespect has helped Basketball ACT teach coaches and kids positive coping strategies for some of the biggest social issues facing young athletes today,” he said.
“Providing support to our young athletes is a key priority for Basketball ACT, and these courses are an important step toward that. Coaches from a number of our clubs participated, and the feedback was extremely positive.”
The Snow Foundation pays half the cost of the programs for youth sport team sponsors in the ACT and believes the iRespect program can keep kids on the right track.
“Our children are faced with a rapidly changing society, and this program is simple,” said Georgina Byron, CEO of The Snow Foundation.
“It delivers powerful short messages, creates change and helps kids keep each other on the right track. We can empower the region’s young people to stand up for what’s right and stop bad behaviour and violence before it starts.”
The program is in need of more funding and Mr Wadies believes now is the time for corporate sponsors of youth sports teams to change the future.
“Groups, companies and sports clubs who sponsor youth sports teams can make a huge difference by funding this course,” Mr Wadie said. “Canberra businesses can change the way children deal with gender inequality and behaviour that leads to larger problems like domestic violence.”
For more information about how to get involved and sponsor one of the iRespect initiatives for a club, contact Mark Wadie on 0437 850 462.