Sport is a great way for kids to learn team-building skills, improve their confidence, demonstrate leadership qualities and make new friends.
But there’s an invidious movement that’s threatening to undermine everything that’s brilliant about youth sports; it’s time to blow the whistle on parents who holler from the sidelines.
Shouting out instructions to your kid is distracting and counter-productive. And jeering at the other side is just plain rude. Some parents even yell abuse at the referee if the game is not going their way.
Now some clubs are imposing silent sidelines where adults and supporters are told to keep chat to a minimum. In Australia, The Greater Brisbane Junior Rugby League has even warned parents that if they misbehave, their child will be eliminated from the match.
We all get a bit over zealous when we’ve got a vested interest. Of course you’ll be screaming the odds if things aren’t going your way in the football betting or if the team you’ve supported all your life is playing below par. And it stands to reason that you’ll want your child’s team to come out on top, too.
But kids sports aren’t just about winning or losing. As well as learning how to play the game, youngsters are picking up valuable life skills like communication, quick-thinking and sportsmanship.
The principle of good sideline behaviour is to allow kids to get on with the game. They make their own tactical decisions, can hear themselves shout to one another and can concentrate on their next play without the distraction of a constant stream of noise.
Parents who shout instructions from the sidelines simply confuse the players, particularly if they are getting a different direction from their coach.
Here are some basic rules of sideline etiquette that will help make sure you don’t fall foul of the coach.
Always be supportive and never gripe about another player in front of parents. If you don’t think one child is fast enough or you’re wondering why another kid even made it on the team, keep your thoughts to yourself.
Never complain about the coaches in front of other parents. If you’ve got a genuine issue, arrange to see him or her in private, away from the pitch.
Parents on the other side and players on the other team are not the enemy. Don’t shout abuse at them. It’s just not classy.
Keep your mouth shut over all decisions made by the referee. Don’t teach your kids that when things don’t go their way, they can blame the ref. And don’t go the other way either. You may think you’re being supportive when you shout “good call!” but you’re just being patronising; particularly if the call is in your team’s favour.
Walking up and down the sidelines shouting directions at your child can be excruciatingly embarrassing and unnerving, not to mention unnecessary. If you fancy having a say, embark on some coaching training and get yourself a job.