Campaign Irish Grassroots Football Silent Sideline

Silent Sideline, the aftershock!

Apologies for the late post, the site was under maintenance.

After experimenting with the first ever-official Silent Sideline in Ireland, including clubs from abroad. The response has been overwhelming positive. Original there were over 100+ clubs and that number has grown dramatically over the weekend with many GAA clubs getting on-board. Parents from other codes took it upon themselves to stay silent for the duration of their children’s game and although the clubs didn’t participate they also wanted to be apart of something unique.

On a personal point of view, I’m delighted with the response from the adults and their willingness to at least try and say nothing for what was only an hour in most cases. In our own game; I spoke with encouraging words about 4 times. When we went a goal down, when we brought it back to 1-1 and then 2-1 and at the final whistle. I was able to see so much more by being able to focus on more. When we focus on the person in possession, that’s all we see. To see the real picture, take a step back away from the line. Even move to higher ground if possible. In order to properly understand the big picture, we need to stop becoming obsessed with one small section of the game. Which leads me to what you the adults said about the weekend:

The Feedback:

“Just wanted to say Congratulations and a big Thank You for #SilentSideline. We observed it at the Cutbush U8 soccer match in Kildare. The kids really enjoyed it. My own son and a couple of other boys said that it was ” much better” than having the parents shouting. My son said that he enjoyed the game more and was better able to concentrate as he didn’t “have to look at the parents”. It was noticeable that the kids were able to communicate with each other on the pitch much more easily. I also found it a lot more enjoyable as a parent and enjoyed clapping instead. I’d really like to see this being introduced for all of the games.” – Joseph Fallon

“The event proved a huge success and we had Ciaran Gallagher (Derry City, Goalkeeper) drop in to support our event. The parents were very generous in their praise and can I take this opportunity to congratulate Antonio on his organisation of the “Silent Sideline Weekend”. Look forward to working with The Coach Diary in the future”. – Jonathan Adair Buncrana Heart FC

“I must compliment you on this idea, which I believe was a resounding success for our players. It was fantastic to only hear the players communication among themselves with no pressure from the side lines. Naturally enough it’s a strange feeling for adults not to get involved but from my own stand point it was very evident that the young kids very much thrived being allowed to make their own decisions & mistakes without fear of retribution. Well done to all behind this initiative”.Robbie Giles Ashbourne United

“Just wanted to drop you a quick mail to let you know that I absolutely loved your Silent Sideline idea this weekend. I was at an U12 Castleknock v Cabinteely match on Saturday morning and it was really nice to hear the kid’s voices for a change – calling for passes etc. and really working together as a team! In the past, I can admit to being a bit loud with my “Common Cabo” chants on the side-lines, but from now on I will be one of the silent types and will be encouraging more to do the same”.- Rob Waters

“Overall it went very well. Weather was good and kids enjoyed being out on the grass again after playing all winter on astro. We had 4 pitches and 60 kids I read out a piece from your website on what was expected from the coaches and parents and Chelsea (age 9) read out ‘a players message to parents’ which we also got on your site. All the kids got a wrist band and all the parents got a flyer. I was busy rushing around making sure every game went smoothly, but 3 or 4 times I notices parents clapping…….. which I never noticed before. Majority thought it was great but one parent commented on the occasion having no atmosphere”. Trevor Gorman Kilmacrennan Celtic FC

“The comments from the Coaches, players and parents where in general positive, there where a few comments that where interesting Our parents on the sideline seem to have became very aware of the negative comments from the opposing sideline and remarked on it.. Maybe in the past they would have reacted to the negative comments. The coaches where delighted that the only instructions the players received where from them. The players felt free to play and make mistakes without negative feedback. (This was not a instant reaction, it was into the second half of the games before the burden of sideline pressure started lifting).

One of games highlighted the negative side of our game..the opposition manager constantly berated his players to such an extent that the ref warned him about his behaviour. This carried on until the parents and the coach became in a heated argument on the sideline in front of both teams of players (11 and 12 year olds). Shocking behaviour!!!! Overall I feel very happy with the day despite the weather, we will be running with the initiative next weekend”. – Robbie – Trim Celtic AFC

As you can read from the comments above, shows why the weekend was so successful.. If anything it got people talking about it. Some coaches felt a bit frustrated, some parents felt it strange not being allowed to shout out encouragement. The weekend was about trusting the kids to make their own decisions. They must be able to try and figure thing out for themselves. Many children never discover how to play properly because of all the shouting and most will go through their entire sporting life without reaching their true potential. The players need more playtime like the play they had last weekend.

You will find more comments in an article I did for the 

Some the comments I got from the players:

  1. “It was like street football with jerseys on” u10s
  2. “The first time ever my dad didn’t scream at me and I scored twice. First two goals ever for the team” u12s’
  3. “I really enjoyed the game. I made mistakes and no-one pointed them out. I was able to get on with the game and focus on my performance” u13s
  4. “I’ve been playing football for 7 years and that is the most noise I have heard from our players. Today we played like a team because we were allowed too.” u17s
  5. “I much prefer it like this. I hate it when the parents shout at me” u10s
  6. “I was able to concentrate more than ever before” u10s
  7. “It felt strange at the start hearing no noise from the line. After a few minutes all I noticed was my team mates talking, we started to coach ourselves” u12s


Majority loved the idea and could see the benefits on the day. Some of the other comments I got were: “I found it hard not to instruct and felt I should be able to instruct, i didn’t like it.” From my experience if you prepare your team well, you won’t need to instruct that much. If and when instructing, wait until the player can’t affect the game and don’t scream and shout. Another way of getting the message across is through another player on field when the game has stopped or the ball is not in play. A sub can also be a way of communicating to players. Many adults stressed that the silence “took the atmosphere out of the game.” The game belongs to the kids not the parents and/or coaches. Just because the sidelines are silent and not noisy doesn’t mean there is no atmosphere, in fact the atmosphere in youth sport is created on the pitch, unlike in professional sport where the pro’s expect an atmosphere – after all we pay good money to watch them perform. We can’t compare what we see on TV (pro sports) to what we see on kid’s sports field. One is a child the other is a paid professional athlete. Just because Jose Mourinho acts like that on the sideline that doesn’t meant it’s ok to act like that during kid’s sports. Comparing is just ridiculous. The noise generated by the adults etc on the line is generally confusing and thwarts the decision making of the players, particularly down at the youngest ages and it also thwarts what you really see.

“Children don’t see what you see. They see what they see.” TCD

At the weekend we had an u17 team get involve with the SSW and the coaches from both sides respected the campaign. I spoke with both sets of players and they both enjoyed the experience. One player said, “I’m with this team 7 years and that is the first time our coach has said nothing, I really enjoyed the game”. One of the coaches did stress that he would have preferred to instruct some of his players as they needed guidance. I suggested to try and get a message across at half-time or if a players wasn’t performing he had 4 more waiting to get on, use your subs.

“95% of children who play sport, play for recreational reasons”

I hope coaches, manager, parents will reflect on this experience and take on-board the feedback from the players and the power of observation. You actually see so much more by saying less and focusing more on the game and not the player in possession or the player about to receive possession.

Finally, this weekend the 5th & 6th April 2014 sees many clubs trying the Silent Silent campaign for the first time, due to the bad weather last weekend. If you are one of the these clubs please get in touch or if you need any guidance just email me. I ask every single to coach/manager to control the screaming parents on the sideline or if you’re a screaming coach, be in control of your own emotions. Children shouldn’t have to play sport in fear of making mistakes. When they make mistakes, they should be able to process the errors themselves not have an adult ridicule them for it. That’s how we all learn, by doing, processing and implementing.

“The manner in which we have sought to micro-manage our young children’ at every free moment. It is nowhere more evident than on the touchline of a kids football game”

So well done for participating. It’s not easy saying nothing; for sure the players are also grateful. Going forward I suggest you try the following:

  • Try organising an internal Silent Sideline at least once a month or
  • Try to work with one team within your club every-week;
  • Make sure the opposition are aware of what you”re doing;
  • Try organise Silent Sideline Blitz that could also be fun;
  • Get lollies and hand them out to the parents & coaches;
  • Rope your pitches and include designated parent zones;
  • Get some signs to keep people informed;
  • Time yourself on the line and see how long you can stay quiet for;
  • Encourage and praise more;
  • Talk less and observe more;
  • Control your line more;
  • Don’t question and call out at every single decision;
  • Stop shouting words like, ‘How is he’, ‘offside’, ‘ah ref’, ‘hard’, pass-pass….you get what I mean;
  • It would be great if leagues rewarded Sidelines for their behaviour. The referees could easily implement this with a fair-play award given to the best-behaved line after each game. Including being quiet. What about a financial reward?
  • Don’t be afraid to try this. Kids absolutely love it and you will too!

Just some ideas going forward. The next Silent Sideline weekend is planned for September 2014, date tbc. Please use every opportunity between now and then to keep calm and stay quiet. Let us not forget, youth sports is supposed to be an enjoyable “game” organised for and played by kids. Its’ purpose is to teach game/life skills, tactics and a love for sport. It should always be fun. Unfortunately, the reality of today’s youth sport experience is vastly different to ours. Misguided adults, both parents and coaches are inadvertently and selfishly distracting the child-athlete from what’s really important and, in the process, killing his/her joy for the game. Over coaching and winning at all cost mentality needs to go. My aim is to try and educate people that there is another way, a better way!

Pictures to follow next week, in the meantime send on your picture or clips of the SSW to

See also 

You can also download SSW PDF here >Silent Sideline Weekend Press Release -signed and click to view the Silent Sideline Video 

Thanks for participating!

I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

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