Using Dead Words To Quiet A Sideline

A friend of mine recently attended a coaching class where they handed out a list of ‘Dead Words’ for coaches to share with their parents. The idea is you ask your parents not to say certain words in an attempt to stop them from sideline coaching or distracting the players too much. It’s an interesting idea.

The list was written by Ken Hays, though I’m not sure if this is the same Ken Hays that is this year’s USYSA Region III Girls Rec Coach of the Year

Here are the so called ‘Dead Words’ and some examples. I think the examples are what make the list useful:

Attack Attack the ball!
Beat You can beat the player!
Blind Ref, are you blind?
Close Come on! Close the gap!
Cross Hurry, cross the ball!
Cut Cut right! Cut left!
Defend Defend the forward!
Dribble Dribble! Dribble down the field!
Drop Drop back!
Fight Fight for the ball!
Finish Finish!
Force Force the turn-over!
Hit Hit your forward, he’s open!
Hold Don’t let him get past, hold his jersey!
Hurt Get up, you’re not hurt! Play!
Jump Jump on side!
Kick Kick it!
Open Your wing is open!
Pass Pass to the middle!
Pressure Pressure the ball!
Referee/Ref What kind of call was that, Ref?
Run What are you doing? Run!
Shift Shift up! Shift back! Shift left! Shift right!
Shoot Shoot! Shoot the ball!
Slide Slide to the outside!
Tackle Tackle him!
Take Take him out!
Talk Talk to your teammates!
Think What are you doing? Think!
Throw Throw the ball into the defender!
Wait Wait for the pass!

I thought there was one glaring omission: Ball. That would take care of a lot of the more annoying things that parents can shout out during a match.

As a coach, I don’t know if I’d send this out to my parents or not. I think it could rub some people the wrong way and do more harm than good. We all want a parent sideline that encourages the kids without distracting them, but if you just hand this list out, you might generate some resentment from your parents because you’re treating them like kids.

Instead, I’d use the list as a basis for an honest discussion with  your parents about the proper things to say on a sideline. Use it as PART of a discussion. But I certainly would not recommend just handing it out. One of our coaches did and, well, the reaction was not what he expected!

Leave a Reply

  1. That list gave me a good chuckle, seems easier to just tell the parents not to speak!! LOL! I know I wouldn’t want to hand out that sheet.

    My favorite word not to use was Blind. Ref, are you blind? Maybe the list should be all the things you shouldn’t say to the ref?? That would be a good blog post!

    Keep up the good work Mike!

  2. Hi Mike, I wondered what you say in your discussion with the parents–do nothing but encourage the kids? Don’t give instructions to the kids? Don’t talk to the ref, let me do that? What works? Honestly, 75% of the parents of my upcoming U9 team, while enthusiastic, don’t see what I see on the field and many times what they shout is wrong or at least very confusing for the players. The 25% who do know soccer at a more sophisticated level often feel it necessary to give me in game coaching pointers. How do you deal with that??

    Many thanks, Tim

  3. I tend to keep it simple – don’t call out their names or instructions while they’re playing. Cheer a soccer move, solid shot, goal, etc. Otherwise, it distracts them and makes them play worse. I need to be able to get their attention from the team sideline and parents shouting at them only makes that harder. Just let them play and cheer them when they do well. Ref is off limits – besides they can throw you out.

    But I really do stress how it can distract the kids and they’ll play better if they don’t hear constant instructions and shouting from the sidelines. Plus as coach even I won’t shout out during play much – only to players AWAY from the play or during lulls in the action. That usually works. Plus I tell the kids flat out that when they are playing a soccer match it is the one time they absolutely can and SHOULD ignore their parents. Doesn’t always work and depends on your parents – but if you’ve built up trust with them, they’ll usually go along.

    True story. U8 match. I have a precocious girl on my team and I’ve given them the ignore the parent speech earlier. Play pauses (goalie chasing down ball for a goal kick) and her mom yells out ‘Tie your cleat!’ She turns to her mom and says ‘No! Coach Mike told us to ignore the parents!’ So I yell out ‘Tie your cleat!’ and she says ‘OK Coach!’ and ties her cleat.

    The parents were laughing hysterically at this point.

  4. Silly as this sounds, we have a team parent that helps us by handing out Tootsie Pops to the parents that get a little too loud (the parents know this is a possibility too).

    In fact, Coach and I have been known to possess a Tootsie Pop ourselves from time to time, just to keep things quiet on the touchline. :)

  5. That is a great story about the girl and her cleat; made me laugh. I love the tootsie pop idea, that is a good one. I would love to see a parent’s face who is all fired up and screaming get handed a tootsie pop by someone to settle down!! That is great!

  6. From what I have seen the sideline problem is primarily a problem in the US as a function of the fact that parents attend so many of the games. What really needs to be done is that parents need to be helped to find other avenues of entertainment. It is the rare parent who feels the need to attend his or her child’s practice but for some reason this all changes at game time. If a parent has no problem missing practice why does he or she have a problem missing a game. This is the first step to solving the problem – reducing attendance.

    The second step is explaining to American adults that this is soccer and not American football. In adult professional American Football there is a coach that is calling the formations and the plays. But unlike football, professional soccer coaches although instilling training and philosophies of winning do not call play by play. Half of the beauty of the game is the “art” of the game. Neither coaches nor parents should be calling play by play instructions. Coaches can help by explaining this and setting a good example. Unfortunately, a lot of American parents think that a coach that only watches in contrast to a coach that is constantly yelling isn’t doing his or her job.

    To add insult to injury players who get used to a sideline stop playing when the sideline disappears: namely when they become adults. Players who play for themselves continue into adulthood recreation leagues which is what we should hope most players do.

  7. Soccerama – agree about the coaching from the sidelines part. I think a coach who can properly explain this to his/her parents can get most of them to understand why they shouldn’t be coaching and why a coach may be quiet on the sideline. That said, I don’t think it comes from the NFL and rather is just parents wanting to ‘help their kids’

    As for not attending – I don’t think that is realistic. It’s fun for the parents and they enjoy watching their kids. I know I do. And as a coach, I’d hate not having my parents on the sideline. As a parent – yes, I really do enjoy watching my kids play, especially when they or their teammates get creative and discover the ‘art’ of the game. Plus they’re exciting. I don’t think you have to get rid of the parents, just educate them on how behave on the touchline and let them enjoy their kids having fun.

  8. Soccerama–American parents, for better or worse, are very involved in virtually all aspects of the lives of their children, esp. recreational sports. I agree with Mike that there is little chance that parents of young soccer players will miss games unless absolutely have to, and it would be hearbreaking for the kids. Plus, while parents can be irritating at times, I honestly do like their support, interaction with players on both teams and comraderie. Further, the art of the game has nothing whatsoever to do with parents on the sidelines shouting their support for their children.

  9. If a coach manages it well AND gets lucky in terms of who is on his/her team, the parents can be half the fun. We dubbed ours the ‘Lunachick Fringe’ and they all have a really good time. I’d hate not having them on the sidelines. Have I had to remind them a couple times about coaching? Sure. But that’s rare.

  10. The list is used as a tool to give the parents an idea of how many verbs said at the same time can confuse players on the field. We talk about the words and do a little demo to let the parents experience what the players would hear.
    One parent stands up and a soccerball is placed at his/her feet, the other parents are each given a different word to say from the list (drawn from a hat). On go they all say their words at the same time. The parent standing with the ball has to do what they hear.
    You will be amazed how long they just stand there before processing what they heard and taking an action.
    It is funny to watch and we all have a good time doing it.
    The separation between coaching and cheering gets well defined for the season in a positive non-finger pointing way.