What Parents Should Shout From The Sidelines

One other bad part of being away from the blog these few weeks is I didn’t have time to read any other blogs either. So I started catching up on some RSS feeds and like always, Josh has a post up that just screams ‘link to me’ :)

Remember the friendly soccer mom who was having difficulty sorting out the offside rule?

She’s back. This time she’s looking for some help finding “better, more soccer-ish phrases I could be using. Something that would result in increased aggressiveness, without actually shouting for blood.?

Anne over at My Tiny Kingdom is struggling with the youth soccer lingo and needs some help:

Soccer has been hard to adjust to. Our team is new, so I have few opportunities to shout “Nice kick”? or “nice pass”? but when these rare events happen I do try to acknowledge them.

It’s when the ball is being kicked around in the middle of the field with no sense of purpose that I get doubly frustrated, first that the ball isn’t being taken down to the goal, and second that I can’t think of a nice way to tell Finn that kicking the ball once and then slowing to a walk doesn’t seem very effective. Intellectually I realize there’s no magnetic force field that repels our team away from the ball, but when you’re caught up in the game frenzy, that’s how it appears.

I’ve sat through a number of games where all the action takes place on the far end of the field, where our players desperately (well, some are desperate, and some are lackadaisical) try to keep the ball out of our goal. Watching a game of total defense makes me want to stick forks in my eyes.

None of the other parents are yelling anything like this, which makes me wonder if there are better, more soccer-ish phrases I could be using. Something that would result in increased aggressiveness, without actually shouting for blood.

Good question and Josh came up with the right answer even though he wasn’t so sure.


Some of my contributions are below but I wonder, if I were coaching, if I’d want parents yelling much at all. The thing is, I’m not a coach so I’ll leave it up to the youth soccer coaching experts to answer that question.

Bingo. Clearly Josh was using the term ‘expert’ loosely, but still – most youth soccer coaches really wish parents would stop coaching from the field, but that’s like asking a human not to breathe. So what’s an over excited parent on the sidelines supposed to do? Cheer. Encourage good plays and moves, even if it seems like the game isn’t going that well. “GET THE BALL” is NOT one of the things to say. Experts have noted that your average youth soccer player with the ball is making multiple decisions every second. Having 30+ parents screaming instructions at them non stop doesn’t help that any, especially since we train our kids from birth to stop whatever it is they’re doing to listen to us when we speak/shout at them. Not a good mix on the soccer field. I cringe when I watch a player involved in a game look towards the parent (or team) sideline in response to something shouted and lose the ball, play, whatever.

Leave the coaching to the coaches. Some are very quiet while others, like me, tend to be a bit louder (though I am usually only talking to my players away from the action). But parents really should just cheer. Now we’ve all had kids on teams that don’t do well. So cheering may seem like it would limit your ability to ‘engage’ Not true. A good pass, a shot on goal, a nice steal, etc. can all be good occasions to cheer. When a player gets the ball and starts a run, cheer them on – but don’t direct them. Try to keep the enthusiasm up, even if the match is a lost cause. Kids are smart enough to know when the sideline is quieter than normal and why. Cheer until the very end. But leave the coaching to the coaches.

Now Anne was wondering what you could say during a match where her son’s team isn’t doing well. I touched on a few things above, but in a nutshell, cheer when they do ‘good things’. It’s not just about the goals. Examples might include:

  • A well executed pass or even thinking about a pass at the right time, even if the flub it. “Nice pass!” or if the latter “Right idea!”
  • Any type of soccer move, regardless of how well they execute it. I’ve seen kids who are just dazzling in practice who won’t do a single soccer move during a match – they’re too afraid to mess up. “Nice move!”
  • A good throw in. “Great Throw!”
  • Stealing the ball from an opponent – no matter where they are “Great steal!”
  • Loud cheering during set plays (corner kicks, free kicks, etc.) which are usually scoring threats.
  • Some may disagree, but soccer IS a physical game. Kids get bumped off the ball, tackled (even without a slide – just by locking feet on the ball), etc. I have no problem with my parents encouraging their kids to be tough, but it’s a razor’s edge. It’s all to easy for parents to start “Don’t let him push you around” which screams “Push him backl” Encourage your kids to be tough and stand their ground without encouraging them to foul. If an opponent gets cleanly tackled and is not hurt – cheer. If the tackle was dirty and/or the opponent is hurt, obviously don’t.

You get the idea. Encourage, cheer, don’t coach. And hope yoru child’s coach is telling them to ignore the parent sideline.

True story. One of my teams is in a tight match and the parents and coaches are being very loud. At halftime I stress to the team again that the soccer field is the ONE place they absolutely should ignore everything their parents say. Just tune out the parents, listen for my voice in between plays, and just PLAY. It worked – the kids settled down and played a great match. Mid way through the second half, one of the Mom’s yells out to her daughter ‘Jane! Tie your cleat!’ to which Jane immediately replies (at full volume) “Coach Mike told me not to listen to you during our soccer games!”. So I immediately shout out “Jane! Tie your cleat!” to which she replies “OK Coach!” and ties her cleat. The parents were rolling on the ground with laughter.

I know it’s next to impossible to not coach your kid from the sidelines – trust me. Imagine my torment when I’m actually on the parent sideline as a spectator during my own kid’s matches vs coaching my own teams. It’s murder and I freely admit at times I break my own rules. But overall, the less coaching from the sidelines the better. It’s just as fun to cheer and raise the volume as they press towards the goal or make a great defensive stop.

I’ll close with a tidbit I found along the way in my Internet travels (apologies to longtime readers who have seen it before):

A mother is making a breakfast with fried eggs for her teenage son. Suddenly the boy bursts into the kitchen.

He screams: “Careful! CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my goodness! You’re cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They’re going to STICK! Careful! … CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you’re cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don’t forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!”

The mother stared at him. “What’s wrong with you? You think I don’t know how to fry a couple of eggs?”

The son calmly replied, “I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I’m trying to play soccer.”

Leave a Reply

  1. Once again, you’ve come through with some fabulous advice!!

    As I take my cooking very seriously, your joke hit home with me. I don’t let any of the boys in my turf when I’m cooking unless I need a jar opened. Coaching my cooking would result in instant penalties.

    Point taken, so I’ll report back and refrain from shouting:”YO! Get up in his face and steal that ball!”

    Anne Glamore

  2. It’s a delicate balance and I tend to open my mouth more often than I should. I’ve got a post in my queue that I really need to finish titled “Sometimes you just have to be honest” about how to deal with kids after a loss where they just don’t play. You CAN sugar coat things too much and sometimes you have to find a diplomatic way of saying “you were being lazy and let them win” without actually saying that. If any of my kids come off the field having played hard, even if mistakes are made and the score is 0-15, I tell them they did a great job and to keep trying and working to get better. But if they’re copping an attitude and fooling around and they get run over because they’re just not trying, there will be some, shall we say, less than positive things said – in the van. Life isn’t all sunshine and roses.

    Note I’m talking about U10 and above. U5/U6 kids are going to be daisy pickers regardless and U8 is a mixed bag. But you’ll learn to recognize when the kids move from ‘amoeba ball’ to something a bit more structured and serious.

  3. Pingback: What to say on the sideline « Coosa Storm 97

  4. Interesting topic (yes, I’m just catching up!) for me, considering that this past weekend was the first “play-around” for our U10 Academy teams. One of the biggest mantras from the coaches to the parents has been, “Please, no coaching or directing the players while they are on field.”

    Now, this didn’t seem to be much of an issue during our intra-squad scrimmages. But with the onset of matches against other clubs’ Academy teams, I’m starting to hear more grumbling about this restriction. The girls love it, though!

    Let me know if you’re still interested in a guest post about Academy. 😉

  5. Absolutely – create an account and I’ll set you up as an author so you can login and write guest posts.

    And anyone else who might be interested in guest posting – drop me an email and let me know what you might like to write about.