- LET THE PLAYERS PLAY! If you are constantly yelling toward your child, you are distracting them, essentially taking them out of the game. The worst is when I see a kid “rubbernecking.” Turning their head toward the parent sideline for your approval or recognition. If you are one of those parents that yells SHOOT! or PASS! you are just as guilty. By doing this you are essentially telling a young soccer player what to do, and often the right decision is the complete opposite! Unless you are an expert in the game, which even I am not. Athletes learn by doing, and making mistakes is natural, and they will correct them if you allow them. Don’t make decisions for the players and/or instruct them from the sideline. This is the coach’s job, and at U9 and below they shouldn’t even being doing much of this.
- Leave the Refs Alone! No parent should ever speak to a referee for any reason. A wise man once said, “if you go into a game expecting poor refereeing, you will never come out disappointed.” Refs are usually young, many are inexperienced, and not all have even played soccer, so let them focus on their job which is essentially player safety. I have a parent who likes to talk to refs and it is beginning to rub off on their child! If you can’t help yourself and you have to say something, do everyone a favor and just watch the game from a distance. Sometimes I wish refs would just give parents one of these! Take down names of the appropriate parties and hand out suspensions for deserving behavior.
3. Be Wary of your Tone of Voice. Parents often do not even realize the stress, affliction, or harshness of their tone when cheering on their kids. A simple phrase like “come on Michael!” can sound two different ways, evident in the sound bytes below.
4. Create a Positive Environment. From the car ride to the game until the car ride home, make sure your child is given a positive soccer experience every game day. Cheer on your kids, motivate them with positive words and tones (nothing negative or constructive), and most importantly just be happy to WATCH them play. If you are there with a smile on your face, your kid will play with a smile themselves. Kids want nothing more than to impress their parents on game day, so your job is to let them do just that. If there is a parent on your team that is out of line with the rest, speak up and remind them why they are here, for the kids. Refer them to the S.A.G.E. guidelines which is to Set A Good Example.
Just continue to remind yourself on game day to not allow a bad day, an annoying opposing parent, or a strong cup of coffee get in the way of your child or team’s experience. Just Let the Players Play and take your role as cheerleader to allow for the best possible soccer experience we can offer.