Excusing bad behaviour with 'boys will be boys' is a cop out. But sports people have the power to model strong values and show respect, writes Mike Hussey.
Excusing bad behaviour with 'boys will be boys' is a cop out. But sports people have the power to model strong values and show respect, writes Mike Hussey.

Sport has the power to change sexist attitudes forever

'Boys will be boys."

"You throw like a girl."

I remember hearing phrases like those when I was growing up. It was common at the time; just mates giving each other a bit of stick.

Coming from the world of cricket, we were encouraged to act tough to be accepted, even if it meant putting people down sometimes.

I saw plenty of disrespect, especially towards women. I heard how women were viewed and talked about.

That kind of casual disrespect affects how men talk to women and how they build relationships.

Today you don't hear that kind of language as much, but it's still there. I can see it with my 13-year-old son; boys his age are trying to put their stamp on the world and sometimes put others down to build their own self-esteem.

When he comes home from school and someone has said something to him, that's a good opportunity for a family conversation around the dinner table.

Casual disrespect in sport effects how men talk to women and how they build relationships. Picture: AAP/Michael Dodge
Casual disrespect in sport effects how men talk to women and how they build relationships. Picture: AAP/Michael Dodge

I'm pleased to see my kids learning that whether you're a girl or a boy, you don't need to treat people that way and you don't have to accept that behaviour. Kids pick up on every little thing you do, so my wife and I are mindful of showing respect through our words and how we treat each other. I want to set a standard so that my daughters expect respect in their relationships. If they don't get it, they know to call out their partner and ask themselves "is this the right person for me?"

Excusing bad behaviour with "boys will be boys" is just a cop out.

Family and peers had the biggest influence on my attitudes when I was young and my parents were great role models. But parents are only the biggest influencers until a certain age. Then coaches, teachers and peers become the people young people look up to as a reference for what is acceptable behaviour.

Sports coaches who have strong values and show respect are the ones who stand out for me. Justin Langer (former Test batsman and now the coach of the Australian men's cricket team) is someone who I always admired - he was my idol growing up and I wanted to be like him. He worked really hard on his game, but also set himself high standards off the field. And if my behaviour wasn't up to those standards when we played together, he didn't hesitate to challenge me.

Justin Langer always set himself high standards on and off the field. Picture: supplied
Justin Langer always set himself high standards on and off the field. Picture: supplied

The Australian women's team have also been vital for spreading the message of respect and equality. First, they're fantastic on the field - in fact they're the world's best team. But the way they conduct themselves and promote the game off the field is exemplary.

If the Australian women's and men's teams and the first-class teams keep setting high standards and can filter those messages of respect down to clubs, that will help to change the thinking.

Our actions and our language as parents and coaches effects how children behave now and the kind of adults they become.

We all want happy, healthy children who grow up to lead good lives. Being a cricket commentator and father, I see it as my job is to pass on the message of respect so it becomes part of their values and part of who they are.

Mike Hussey is a former Test cricketer and current coach and commentator.



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