Let The Children Play!

Parents should avoid excessive criticism of their children when watching
them play.

Do's and Don'ts For Parents and Coaches


1. DON'T shout instructions to the player with the ball. (The player has
enough problems maintaining possession of the ball while making quick
and difficult decisions about what to do next. The player doesn't need
your imput. The player must learn to make his/her own decisions.)

DON'T use phrases such as "Boot the ball", "Kick it", "Send it", "Belt
the ball" etc. (First of all you are violating rule #1; second you are
encouraging panic rather than good decision making and mindless
kicking rather than possession of the ball.)

DON'T try to control the game from the sidelines. YOU CAN"T! (Soccer
is not a game in which the cosch is an active participant in the game
itself. Soccer is a game played, controlled and ultimately coached by the
players on the field. Teach the players to "coach" themselves.)

DON'T try to teach "aggressiveness". (In the game of soccer what is
perceived as aggressive play is merely a reflection of the confidence a
player has in his/her own abilities. Teach the skills that generate
confidence; encourage players to believe in their skillsand themselves. If
you do they will play "aggressively". If you preach "aggressiveness" as a
goal unto itself you will likely reap the opposite of what you seek.)

DON'T abuse game officials or show disrespect for your opponent.
(Referees do make mistakes, but they make far fewer mistakes than your
players. Your opponents deserve your respect; they are NOT your
enemy! Your players will learn from your example; be aware of the
example you are setting.)

DON'T forget Rule Number One!


1. DO offer suggestions to players not currently involved in what is
happening on the field. (Brief words of advice or wisdom are helpful to
players who have time to consider your advice. But the suggestions
should be made to players currently out of the game or to players on the
field, but far from the ball, who can give your counsel both attention and

DO encourage players to use the skills they are being taught. (The
learning of skills in practice is but the first step in the development of any
player. Players must be encouraged [and sometimes pushed] to
experiment with skills in scrimmages and games. If at first such an
approach costs you goals, learn to accept such temporary setbacks as
the price of progress. Do not view mistakes as unacceptable; recognise
that each mistake is an opportunity to help a player improve. Soccer is a
game best learned by trial and error. If you teach that mistakes are
unacceptable you will discourage many from trying and progress will
come to an end.)

DO teach the players to coach themselves on the field. (By the time
players find themselves on a full size field they will not be able to hear
you anyway. The players must learn to assist each other in making the
hundreds of split-second decisions that each game requires.)

DO teach the players the skills. Do encourage them to hold the ball
long enough to make good decisions about what to do next. (Although
incorporating new possession skills into a game situation often brings
failure at first, abandoning the effort in favour of "booting" the ball
guarantees that development will be limited.)

Game Day

Parents of young athletes play a vital role in their children's development
in sport. Some parents struggle in their efforts to positively influence their
children in this sporting environment. Well-intentioned, much of the time,
some of their methods employ over-questioning, critical comments and
unrealistic demands towards their children. The situations that many
young soccer athletes deal with before, during and after games and
training sessions could bring a grown adult to tears.

Consider the following story about Mr. John Jones and his 11 year old
daughter Jean as they experience "Game Day".

"Interrogation on Wheels"...Pregame

The car door closes. Jean seat belts herself in. John starts the engine.
The car begins to move and John starts the interrogation:

"What position is coach going to play you in today?"

"Are you going to start?"

"Take some shots yourself today; you don't have to pass to Mary all the

"Be more aggressive on your tackles."

"Don't take any grief from the other team!"

"Work on your mental toughness today."

"Match Mouth"...The Game

Mr. Jones and Jean arrive at the field. Jean is gathering her stuff. John
locks the doors of the car. He still has a few minutes to walk with Jean to
the field and bestow upon her a few more tidbits of advice:

"don't be lazy this game!"

"Keep your head in the Game."

"Don't forget to ask coach to put you at forward."

The match begins and Jean is not starting. John's body tenses, his teeth
begin to grind and negative self-talk (talking to oneself) begins:

"This guy doesn't know what he's doing!"

"I bet he won't let her play forward."

"I should have put her on another team."

Jean finally gets into the game. She is playing left defender. More
negative semi self-talk (becoming audible):

"What is he doing?"

"It's clear that he doesn't like her!"

"She can't even kick a ball with her left foot!"

As the game progresses, an opposing player, on Jean's side of the field,
receives the ball and dribbles straight at her. John's negative "coaching"
comments begin so that Jean can hear them:

"Stop backing aggresive...step up!"

"Come on...get the ball...tackle her!'

Jean trips and falls as the opponent dribbles by her. The opponent
proceeds to cross the ball and a goal is scored against Jean's team. John
is beside himself with rage! He just can't stand it! He throws his arms
down vigorously and begins to pace the touchline for a few steps. His
negative comments become extremely vocal...he is willing to share them
with anyone who will listen!

Jean...Get up...what are you doing?!"

"I knew it...this coach doesn't have a clue!"

"Hey ref...she knocked her something for a change!"

"He should have never put her in the back."

"This is ridiculous!"

The game ends and Jean's team loses 1-0. The coach is talking to the
team and Mr. John Jones decides that he must talk to the coach RIGHT
NOW...IMMEDIATELY! It cannot wait! He walks over to where the team is
sitting, interrupts the coach in an angry tone, and informs him that he
wants to talk to him. Jean is embarrassed. The coach suggests that Mr.
Jones step away and wait until he is done speaking to the team. Then he
will speak with Mr. Jones privately. John Jones storms off and says,
"Forget it!" His anger has reached a pinnacle:

"I can't believe this guy!"

"He has no respect for the parents!"

"I'm taking my daughter off this team!"

Anyone within earshot has heard John's comments...including the players

"Interrogation on Wheels Again"...Post-Game

Mr. Jones gets into his car and tells Jean to hurry up and get in. Once out
of the parking lot, it begins...

"Didn't you ask him if you could play forward?"

"He doesn't know what he is doing anyway!"

"What have I told you about diving in on have to stay
balanced and be aggressive!"

"We are going to another club, where you can play forward!"

Mr. John Jones and his daughter Jean get home. Jean gets out of the car
in tears, goes up to her room...and decides to quit soccer!

Friendly Advice:

I am sure that you, as parents of a youth soccer player, have witnessed
some of this parental behavior. Here are a few ideas on "Game Day" that
might help to make a positive difference in your child's development in


Make a few positive, support comments to your child..."I can't wait to see
you your game today. Have some FUN!"

Help your child get the proper nutrition she needs prior to the competition.

Prior to a game. any good sports psychologist or coach will tell you that it
is important for the athlete to get mentally ready for the competition
through "positive self-talk". The ride to the game is a good time for this.
Some athletes like to listen to music during this time. Some athletes ant to
talk a bit...let your child start the discussion or ask the question if they
desire. It is very difficult for your child to mentally prepare for the
competition when you are hording all of the time with your questions and

The Game

Cheer on the athletes for both teams. They are trying their best. They
are youth players and what you say really does affect them...whether you
are their parents or not!

Please DO NOT try to coach your child or the other players. The players
must focus their attention on the game and, at times, their coach and the
referee. There is a lot to think about in the game of soccer. Let them


Good parents and coaches know that immediately after the game it is
time for mental, emotional and physical regeneration.

A positive word about their efforts in the game is very helpful and means
a lot to your child.

Please don't analyze the game or your child's performance in the game.
The coach will do this at the next training session.

Final Thought

Enjoy watching your children will be much less stressful on you
and, certainly, on them.

Is This You or Someone You Know?

Whoever coined the phrase "no use in beating a dead horse" obviously
never dealt with soccer parents.

I'm tired of saying the same old stuff about parents and their role as
spectators on the soccer field, but since it remains an ever increasing
problem, I will continue to beat this dead horse until I pass out from
exhaustion. I would rather have to watch cats in the backyard through the
sliding glass door, than to sit next to one of these soccer parents.

In an attempt to humiliate the offending parties, and as well to dazzle and
amuse you the reader, I am going to classify each of these criminals into
the following categories:

1. The Parent/Coach: The Parent/Coach is not only the coach, but also
the parent of one of the players. This person's child starts every game,
plays every minute, and is "never the cause of any problems on or off the
However, most of the other parents know very well, that if this person
wasn't the coach, there would be no chance on earth that their child
would have ever made the team as anything other than a goalpost.

2. The Parent/Apparent Coach: The Parent/Apparent Coach is more
than just a parent of a player, but also a coach of some other team. This
means he/she is not only obnoxious, but is also convinced that he/she
knows more than the coach about the team, soccer, coaching, the rules,
the game, and most other subjects in the dictionary. In reality, the
Parent/Apparent Coach either doesn't know more than the coach, or
knows more than the coach but doesn't have the common decency to
keep his/her trap shut.

3. The Parent/Apparent Non-Coach: The Parent/Apparent Non-Coach
is worse than the Parent?Apparent Coach for one reason. This person
thinks he/she knows more than the coach, but doesn't realise how often
this is evident.

4. The Ignorant: This person is not a soccer person. He/she does not
know the rules, has never played the game, has no understanding of the
game, and still finds things to shout out loud. For example, "how come
the person in the goalie thing doesn't match the rest of the players," or
"how come everyone can't use their hands," or "tackle her."

This person should be left in the trunk of the Oldsmobile during the game.

5. The Rambo: This is a super-violent, completely non-restrained, bozo
(usually male) who craves violence. This person has a stressful life,
probably drinks too much alcohol, and beats his wife and kids. He/she
goes to the soccer match to start a fight, or to at least relieve the week's
pent-up anxiety and stress. The Rambo is often found yelling things like,
"crush him, kick her, punch him, trip him, tackle him, hurt him, whack her,
get her back, etc." This person also applauds when there are injures,
violent acts, cautions, ejections, own goals, or when the referee gets hit
in the face by a floating pass. The Rambo is quite possibly the lowest
form of human slime.

6. The lobbyist: This parent is an influential person in the, doctor, accountant, assemblyman, entrepreneur, etc.
that has wealth and power to lure the coach with. This parent buys a
position on the team and suitable playing time for their child with favours
of financial support. "If my son makes this team, I am planning to buy the
team new uniforms, build a clubhouse, pay for tournaments and set-up a
booster club to help pay the coaches a little more for their efforts."

7. The Home Team Fanatic: This person means well , but cannot view
the game objectively. The Home Team Fanatic sees every foul against
his/her team as a bad call. Every foul against the opponent is a good call.
Any goal scored by his/her team is a "great" goal. Any goal scored by the
opponent is "lucky". If his/her team loses, the opponent cheated. If
his/her team wins it was because they outplayed the competition. Anytime
the ball is touched by his/her team, the Home Team Fanatic cheers.
Anytime the ball is touched by the opponent, the Home Team Fanatic

8. The Siren: This is an easily excitable parent (usually female). Intense
play brings a high-pitched squealing or screeching sound from the
Screamer. This sound is usually accompanied by uncontrollable
bouncing up and down, nervous pacing, hat throwing, coffee drinking or
umbrella tossing. Sometimes the pleasant experience of the Screamer is
enhanced with the use of air horns, tubas, snare drums, baby rattles, and
party horns. Screamers are often seen wearing scarves, hats,
sunglasses, trench coats and occasionally holding small children that
have confused looks on their faces.

9. The Expectant Father: This person expects "better" from their child
at a game. Players dread riding home in the same car as the Expectant
Father. This person is type A personality, and always criticises the play of
his child. "Why did you miss that shot? Didn't you see the goalkeeper fall
down? How come you look so slow out there?

Don't you remember what I told you about being aggressive? You need
to go to the ball faster. Why don't you dribble more? You look like you
don't want to play. Your teammates pass better than you." etc, etc, etc.

10. The Zen Master: This parent is quiet. Head hung dung down,
staring at his/her feet, and pacing slowly down the sideline. This parent
stays alone in a corner and smiles when passed by. After the game is
over, the player usually has to go tell the Zen Master parent that the
game has ended and their team has won again. The Zen Master usually
says..."Good. Are you ready to go now?"

Well, That's it in a nutshell. The only thing I can add is, don't be like these
people. Be attentive, supportive, reserved, and positive and have a
sense of humor when it comes to youth soccer. Sit back, enjoy, and don't
be part of the problem.

Thoughts and Guidelines for Parents

Dear Parents,

East Bankstown Football Club has set forth guidelines to enhance the
enjoyment and allow a positive playing and learning environment for our
players. Please respect and follow the club's philosophy on sideline
behavior. Do take the time to read the pertaining information on this
subject "Do's and Don'ts and "Let The Children Play" and other articles,
and read how you as a parent can help your child's team and coach.
If you try to coach, interfere, yell or bellow instructions to players during
games or practices or display negative attitudes and poor sportsmanship.
You Undermine The Following:

(A) The Club's philosophy (Soccer is a player's game and let the game
be the teacher)
(B) What we are teaching the coaches
(C) What the coaches are teaching the players
(D) Your child's enjoyment and development

A. Help your coach run a good team:

1. If you want your child to improve his/her skills and performance, then
get the child to practices and give them chances to have fun practicing
around home. The parent's primary jobs are to pay, drive, and offer
positive support.
2. You can help the team by volunteering for one of the many tasks that
make the team run smoothly...coordinating pictures, snacks, first-aid, or a
telephone tree, or being an assistant coach or a referee, or what-have
you...check with your team coach or team manager.
3. Help your player get ready for practice & games by having the right
clothing & equipment. Soccer boots & shin pads are a must. Socks go
outside shin pads and cover them completely. Caps, gloves, leggings,
and polypropylene or similar undershirt are often needed for those wet,
cold winter days. Yes, yes soccer is played in the rain. Every player
should take a ball and a water bottle (preferably filled) to training.
Remove jewellry 9earrings, watches, necklaces, etc). Pick your child up
promptly from practice or a game.
4. Many coaches are working without enough at-practice support. A
second parent with some skills really enhances every practice. Even an
unskilled parent can go through the drills and small-sided practices with
the team. A second adult can encourage a reluctant player along, take a
disruptive child out of the way, or help a coach keep things going if a
player is ill or injured. Do be sure you and the coach communicate and
place final authority with the coach.
5. Everyone agrees that communication is very important. If anything at
all is bothering your child, let the coach know as soon as possible. Give
him or her the opportunity to adjust to make your child's experience more
rewarding and enjoyable.
6. More coaches are needed at all playing levels! If you think you can,
then talk to your club about volunteering. Coaching clinics and other
assistance is readily available.

B. Expectations for parents behaviour at game time:

The emotional involvement of parents and spectators does need some
outlet. While spectators should be encouraged to cheer all kids we
should also follow these guidelines during both games and practices to
allow a calm & relaxed atmosphere for kids to train & play in.
1. Before the game, there are three things to tell your player: (1) I love
you; (2) Good luck, and (3) Have fun. Leave the coaching to the coach &
the game to the player. Do not bribe players to score goals!
2. Cheering encouragement is fine, but you should not instruct (i.e.
coach) the players in any way. It confuses the children, hampers their
ability to play, and undermines the efforts of the coach. Avoid coaching
by avoiding commands (e.g. "Get rid of it" "Boot it" "Pass iyt" "Soot"
"Hustle" :It's your ball"). Avoid running up & down sidelines or hanging
aroundgoalposts to offer advice.
3. Be conscious that judgement comments are risky as well (e.g. "Great
pass "Good shot"), as they may be counter to a coach's instructions or if
not technically correct, may reinforce bad playing habits. Positive
encouragement can be offered with general comments (e.g. "way to go"
"Great effort" "Good stuff").
4. Be polite to other spectators, including those from the opposition. If
you are disturbed by any screaming parent and want to make an attempt
to quiet that person, use savvy tactics. Seek to distract that person from
yelling or coaching by engaging him/her in casual conversation or let
them know about Club guidelines in a non-confrontational manner.
5. After the game, there are three things to tell your player: (1) I love you;
(2) it was great to see you play and (3) what would you like to eat? Do
not analyze their playing or the game. Promote good sportsmanship.
Stress the positives. Rise above the negatives.

C. Respect the referees:

A. Yes, referees make mistakes, but so do players and coaches. It is not
acceptable to yell at the referee. The coach is held responsible for
parent behaviour and can be cautioned for any spectators behaviour.
Youth soccer is not the time to "chew on" or harass a referee. Also, the
youth referee may be the son or daughter of one of your business or
neighbourhood acquaintances. A rude and obnoxious parent often
embarrasses him or herself and usually mortifies their child.
B. FYI: many recreational and club games are refereed by teenagers.
They must be FIFA licensed at grade 8 or above, which requires a week
of classes and some practical training. We use licensed Refs but usually
volunteer parents so when they ref your child's game they are learning
as well. Please respect the Ref regardless of age

"Remember We Are All Part Of A Club And On The Same Team
When It Comes To The Players."

Rules for Spectators

Rule No. 1: Keep POSITIVE.
When the players are working hard, they need and deserve everyone's
best POSITIVE encouragement and support. They need to know tou're
there and that their effort is appreciated. Most teams have a tough
enough time developing a sense of teamwork and achievement at the
same time the players are gaining experience and skill. They DO NOT
need to hear YOUR anxiety piled on top of their own when the game is
going poorly. If you really want to make things worse, crank your voice up
a few notches and shout :Get it outta there!"

Rule No. 2: DO NOT CRITICISE referees or players of either team for any
If the referees really ARE doing poorly, they may get angry or offended
by critical spectators and that may make things tougher for the team. If
they are good at what they do, they will ignore you, or perhaps ask you to
leave the field. Either situation is at best distracting and at worst reflects
poorly on the team's overall sportsmanship.
Publicly criticising players on your team can really hurt team morale.
They will already have an EXCELLENT idea what their weknesses are
from their coaches and teammates. They will not need reminders from
their families, friends and other spectators.
The players for the other team are also trying hard and in truth are
probably no meaner or nastier than players from your team. Criticism is
simply poor sportsmanship and leads to unnecessary bad feelings on
and off the field. The unfortunate spectacle of supposed adult shouting
insults at a child on a soccer field is merely disgusting. Soccer is a game,
not a war.

Rule No. 3: Don't coach players from the sidelines or for that matter while
THEY are on the sidelines.
In most clubs, coaching from the sidelines is frowned on, and rightly so.
If you feel a child is not doing what should be done, tell the coaches, not
the player. As parents occasionally discover, a player may be doing
EXACTLY what the coaches have instructed. Either way, a parent can
help a player's atheletic development much better working together with
the coaches, not independently.

Rule No. 4: Give the players, coaches and referees room to work and
stay away from the goal area to avoid interfering with those involved in
the game.

Rule No. 5: Remember, IT'S ONLY A GAME.
Don't forget, YOUR attitude on the sidelines can affect the mood and
success of the team. If the coaches think that your sidelines activity is
hurting team performance in any way, they should promptly advise you,
hopefully without ruffling any of your feathers. Be tolerant. Emotions run
high during games, and feelings are easily hurt. Nevertheless, any
spectator, whether parent, frienfd or player, who persists in inappropriate
sideline behaviour after being warned by thecoaches should be asked to
leave the vicinity of the field. Coaches should not argue with parents at
the game. If YOU want to talk about the game, call the coaches later at
home or get them aside after the game.

The 6 Things Parents Should Say To Their Player

A lot of soccer parents with good intentions give a 30 minute lecture,
covering all the players supposed deficiencies and giving playing advice,
in the car on the way to each match. The kids arrive far off their optimal
mental state, and dreading the critique they are likely to hear, whether
they want it or not, on the way home. Kids who are massaged in this way
tend not to play badly, they just tend to not play, possibly to avoid making
The easiest way to detect this problem is just to ask the player if it is a
problem. Kids are more than willing to share this grief. The easiest way to
correct this problem is to speak to the parents, as a group, about your
expectations, and to cover this as a routine problem. Many of the parents
will recognise themselves if you can present this problem with humour
and illustrate the importance of the kids having fun and arriving in a good
state of mind.
For best results, parents should memorise and use the following.

Before the Match:                        After the Match:

I love you                                        I love you
Good Luck                                       It was great to see you play
Have fun                                         What would you like to eat?