Sideline Etiquette

Six things to keep in mind when attending your child’s game

1. Avoid ‘coaching’ from the sideline while watching your child’s game

A common problem in youth soccer is the impulse parents have to shout instructions to their young player from the sideline. It’s especially difficult for a child because he or she has a tendency to refer to what a parent says, which often conflicts with the instruction from the coach. Carton said parents should imagine being in a room and having multiple people yelling instructions at them in order to see the confusion it could cause a child.

The tone a parent yells with is typically a lot more aggressive than the coach. The coach is instructing with a teaching mentality. ’

The instructions that parents are yelling have an immediacy to it. They want it done now because they want the gratification of the instant result. This conflicts with what the coach is trying to do. 

2. Do not criticize the referee 

Spectators should realize that referees are people and will make mistakes — even those officiating at the highest levels of play. When parents go after a referee for what they perceive as a mistake, it begins to make the game about the adults rather than the kids.

A referee is ideally going to make an objective decision on what he or she sees. A parent is going to interpret that same situation through the prism of the team that their child plays on, if it’s a decision that goes against their team, they’re automatically going to have a subjective view on it.

The additional problem comes that when the child sees a parent yelling at the referee, that child thinks it’s accepted. Parents need to remember they always need to be a model for their child. 

3. Focus on the benefits of the game rather than the score

Far too often parents worry about the numbers formed by illuminated lights on a scoreboard rather than the experience their child has while playing youth sports.   While it’s natural for everyone to want to win, parents need to keep focus on the larger picture.

It’s a natural instinct to want to win. The key thing is to keep things in perspective.   If your team doesn’t win, how should they go into the next game to improve on what went wrong? Losing and learning from losses is part of the devleopmental process. If your team always wins, their mentality won’t be able to handle setbacks from losses.  

Parents need to ask their child if they had fun today and what they learned or took away from the experience, and not focus on the outcome of the score.  

4. Think when interacting with opposing fans

Grown adults should be able to go and enjoy their child’s experience without having any confrontations.   Don’t forget, you’re not just representing the club, you’re representing your child.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • The way you’re acting right now — if you could see yourself through the eyes of your child, what would you think of yourself?
  • Why are you making a public spectacle over a U-11 girl’s soccer game?
  • Are you proud of what you’re doing right now?
  • Would you allow your child to act like this?

5. Don’t stress out over the game

Don’t let your happiness be defined by the result of a youth soccer match.  

Do you find yourself pacing up and down the sideline — anxiously following the action as it unfolds on the field? Stop it. Breathe.  Just calm down. Enjoy the game. Stop being so attached to it. It’s not your game. 

Instead, focus on your child.  Is he having fun? Is he active? Is he enjoying the social nature of the game? Is he getting as much out of this experience as he can?  Keep things in perspective.

6. Save questions for the coach for the next day

Maybe you don’t agree with how much your child played in a game or another decision the coach made during the match. It’s important to take some time to think about it rather than confronting the coach in front of your child and the team.

Directly after the game, the parents should not approach the coach. It’s an emotionally charged conversation and very little good can come from that.   At that time, there’s very little a coach can say that will make the parent feel any better. Go home. Talk to your family. Sleep on it. Get in touch the next day,and arrange a time to discuss your issues.