Silent Sideline Soccer Parents

Sideline supporters have no right to direct negative talk towards the players…

Parents, Adults or any person in fact have no rights to abuse or sound negative towards children playing the game they love. I have had issue with some of my own parents and I’be witnessed many others who have verbally abused a player whilst playing the game. These parents might think they mean well and could assume they are developing mental toughness…. but they are so far from the truth – what they are really doing is destroying the child’s love for the game.

What gives these Adults the right to criticise children trying to make decisions in a pressurised environment. If you screamed and shouted at a child outside youth sports environment you would be apprehended immediately but why do we allow this to happen in what children also see as a playground??

The worst offenders are ego-driven parents who take personally any slights to their children on the pitch. Any decision gone against their child, any foul; a pass that should have gone to their future star instead it didn’t arrive or it went to someone else; a free-kick or a corner taken by someone else. These are all situations when the ego-parent goes nuts and vents their anger.

All that a side, their are some absolutely brilliant parents out there who give up so much time to bring their kids to and from training and never interfere in their kids football, but these can be mostly few now.

Clubs and coaches need to do more and come down hard on Adults who criticise kids from the sidelines. Maybe we should pre-warn parents and tell them, “you might get angry on the side lines and attached are some tips to deal with it’. Below are some excerpts from a study about parent behaviour on the sidelines, mostly from the US.

A recent study showed – by Jay D. Goldstein

Overall, about half of the parents in the study reported getting angry during games, and nearly 40 percent of the angry parents made their emotions known. These sideline expressions ranged from muttering or yelling comments to walking onto or near the pitch.

“Their own sense of their personal worth gets wrapped up in how their children are doing in these ball games,” said Edward Deci, a psychologist at the University of Rochester in New York. ” And so the parents feel intense, internal pressure to see their kids performing because the kids are like extensions of themselves.”

Coach: ” so what is your favourite position? “
Player: ” Center Midfield”
Coach: ” Interesting. Is that because you see yourself as a good playmaker and stopper? “
Player: ” No its because my dad is one side and my coach is on the other and sometimes if i’m in midfield, I can’t hear either of them”.

340 parents of 8- to 15-year-old soccer players were evaluated on personality and ego characteristics, feelings of anger and pressure, and aggressive behaviour. The Results showed:

  • 47% of parents reported no anger-causing events while watching their kids play.
  • 53% did get angry.

Of those who did feel anger, what made them flare up?

  • 19% blamed the referee.
  • 15% said they got angry at how their kid’s team played.
  • 7% said the opponents behaved badly.
  • 5% reported hostile remarks set them off.
  • 5% blamed coaches.

Researchers concluded that the effect of ego defensiveness and taking things personally was strongly linked to feelings of anger and aggressive actions. Those who were more “control-oriented” were more ego defensive. They viewed actions in the football game as attacks against them or their children.

“In general, control-oriented people are the kind who try to ‘keep up with the Joneses,'” Goldstein said in a news release.”They have a harder time controlling their reactions. They more quickly become one of ‘those’ parents than the parents who are able to separate their ego from their kids and events on the field.”

Goldstein calls parents who are more even-keeled and able to regulate their emotions “autonomy-oriented parents.” They get angry too, he says, and when they do it’s because their ego gets in the way.

“While they’re more able to control it, once they react to the psychological trigger, the train has already left the station.”

HERE ARE SOME TIPS: To ease anger on the playing field, Goldstein suggests these tips:

  • Take deep breaths (inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds).
  • Suck on a lollipop. (Occupies your mouth and reminds you that you’re there for your child.)
  • Visualize a relaxing experience like floating on water.
  • Repeat a calm word or phrase.
  • Do yoga-like muscle stretches.
  • Replace angry thoughts with rational ones, such as “This is my child’s game, not mine,” or “Mistakes are opportunities to learn.”
  • Don’t say the first thing that comes into your head. Count to 10 and think about possible responses.
  • If you did not see the game, first ask your child “How did you play?” rather than “Did you win?”
  • Praise your child’s effort, and then, maybe, comment on the results.
  • Use humour, but avoid harsh or sarcastic humour.

Mistakes are part of the process: and kids shouldn’t be ridiculed for trying. The level of abuse, bullying and over coaching in kids sports is now at an all time high. We need to educate adults on stages of development and stop forcing the process. As ADULTS we expect far too much from children at a very young age. Children are not mini-adult. We need to get away from the Yell and Tell culture that is now rampant in our kids game. It is better to give positive encouragement, refrain from criticism (constructive is ok) and leave the instructions to the coach. Even continually shouting positives messages can have a negative impact as it thwarts the child’s concentration. Make constructive criticism kid friendly, by coaching it in positives and always giving the feedback in private. When kids make a mistake, help them move past it by having them adopt a “mistake ritual,” a quick action that helps them move beyond the mess-up.

  • Children when given control over their game are more likely to enjoy the game more and stay playing for longer and will embrace the process more rather than focus on the result.
  • This can also allow them to focus longer on getting better and to develop an interest outside of training, where they will challenge themselves to work harder and get better (=More success). Children will learn to value their game more.
  • Kids CAN control their effort, their commitment, and their emotions, and as parents if we focus our pushing on those areas we will not strain our relationship with our them.
  • If you find yourself saying “we scored 3 goals today, we won that game, we won the league” chances are you have not let your them go.  Let the game belong to them!


More needs to be done in the area of parenting in sport. Parents don’t shout over the teacher in school, so why do they feel they have the right to shout over the coach. They don’t shout at kids in the playground or young children standing idle because if they did they would be reported and labeled as a bully.

How many times, have you seen a team where the coach has decided to have their defence drop when they lose the ball, so that the midfield can recover but then the parents on the sideline are screaming “press”, “press”? The players become confused the distraction could be critical in the teams play and players concentration.

Ask any child, ‘what they think about their parents shouting on the sideline’? and you will get some very interesting answers.

Some that come to mind, “it’s so embarrassing”, “I hate it”, “he doesn’t know what he’s talking about”, “I wish they wouldn’t come to my games”

“By constantly coaching and correcting our kids in the game we are unconsciously, but almost certainly, guaranteeing poor and deteriorating performance. We are taking them away from that unconscious, focused mental state where they need to be to excel”. – Inside Soccer

Parents need to educate themselves with the help of the clubs and leagues on how to behave pitch side. I don’t understand how parents think it’s ok to verbally abuse children on a playing field yet they wouldn’t dream of telling a kid off in a playground. Well, just in case you didn’t notice or weren’t told ‘the football pitch’ is also a play ground, guys!

Just because things happened certain way when they were younger, it doesn’t mean it has to happen that way now. I think it’s about time some parents kept quiet and let the kids play…. We are adapting to a different generation of children, so back OFF!!!

Here are 20 guidelines for what is appropriate on the Sideline:

  1. Children should be seen as people first and players second.
  2. Be patient. Not all kids progress at the same rate and learning the game of football takes more time than most people realise.
  3. Praise their effort and decisions making. These are the things they can control. They can’t control winning or losing.
  4. Do not ridicule a child for making a mistake, not performing to their best or losing a game.
  5. Never criticise a child over their performance – they won’t always play their best. Help them see past the bad performance by providing constructive feedback.
  6. Remain calm on the sideline at all times. Losing the plot will only embarrass them and make you look like a total fool.
  7. Prowling the sideline like an angry Tiger and questioning every single decision and coaching your child through the game is definitely something you should NEVER do.
  8. Support the coaching staff and refrain from criticising them at all times.
  9. Parents need to look at what these coaches do, how much effort they put into helping other peoples children. Without them we would not have a game, so don’t be quick to judge them. As a parent, once you are confident that your child is in a safe learning environment, one of the most important things you can do as a parent of a young player is to let them go and let their sports experience belong to them.
  10. Never use derogatory comments towards players or coaches. You might feel others are agreeing with you but really they are now talking about you and it always gets back to the coaching staff in the end.
  11. Whilst watching the game, back off and let them play. Stand back away from the action and enjoy the moments.
  12. Parents should say less and see more. Your child wants you there but they don’t need your input every-time they look your way. A simple thumbs up can inspire your child in any given game.
  13. What they see and what you see is a different picture learn to understand that the game looks different from the sidelines.
  14. Children make two conscious DECISIONS per second. Sideline information prevents children from making a quick decision or deciding on one. The brain works in milliseconds and the game in seconds.
  15. Under no circumstances should you use foul and abusive language.
  16. Don’t get drunk on your kids success.
  17. Allow the kids fall in love with game.
  18. Allow them to be children, enjoying all the FUN elements of the game, so that they can mature into the adult game gradually and naturally.
  19. If you control everything your child does, they will never take on responsibility.
  20. Respect the officials and remember the opposition are children and the coaches are volunteers.



Research: Inside soccer, University of Maryland, Dr. Goldstein, Changing the game project

Pic and Video: shows top actor Ray Winstone playing a shouting parent for the English FA Video.


I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me and if you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend.

As always, thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter  @Coachdiary

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