The game of soccer can be a wonderful experience for everyone involved – the players, their parents, organizers (coaches, managers, team parents, and league and club personnel…) as well as the referees. However, as we observe the game and the excitement of so many of our children as they play, we also observe behavior by some parents that does not support the overall goals we have for our League. WYSL Coaches should give this document to every parent. You should discuss the ideas contained herein. Parents are encouraged to practice what this document preaches by reining in other parents that are not being fully supportive.
As a final introduction, let us relate the results of a survey given to parents and their children. Parents of kids playing competitive sports and the kids themselves were given a checklist. Both parties were asked to circle the 3 most important reasons why each party wants the child to play the particular competitive sport. The ages were the same as our youngest players – 8 to 10 years old. The parents’ three most often cited goals were "being challenged," "learning to compete," and "winning." The children most circled goals were "having fun," "learning new skills," and "making friends."
In an effort to help bring our goals closer to the goals of our children, we offer the following THREE LEGS of SUPPORT. Follow these guidelines and you will have a very stable relationship with your child as they grow into young adults enjoying the wonderful game of soccer.
SUPPORT the Kids This means all kids. Make positive comments to players, not negative ones. Don’t groan when someone misses the ball. After a loss or a mistake, don’t malign the players. They are children. Make a rule for yourself – say one positive thing to an opponent each half! Applaud a great save by the opposing goalie, a wonderful pass or a beautiful defensive play. Forget the constructive criticism. You know, things like "If you only worked on your left foot a little more" or "next time you should pay attention when the coach talks about heading!" Comments need to be unfailingly positive and supportive. Kids take even the mildest criticism as a sign that you don’t support them. You job on the sidelines is to revel in their accomplishments and offer a shoulder, a hug or a kiss when everything doesn’t go perfectly. If you feel the need to comment on a mistake, how about "Oh, what an unlucky bounce!"
And, please remember that the kids on the other team might be your next door neighbor. Please don’t gloat over the mistake made by an opponent. No celebrating over a team shellacking. What if it was your child? How would they feel? How would you feel?
SUPPORT the Coach Here’s a shock, your kid’s coach isn’t perfect. But, don’t make it harder by coaching from the sidelines. Never yell to a player to do something – that’s the coach’s job. Players HATE to hear instructions from more than one source. Never decide that you know best what your child should be doing and complain during the game. If you have an issue, take it up with the coach after the game out of earshot of your child. Here’s the best advice ever from a senior coach that works with some of our best players, "Let them play!"
It is a shame that the smallest kids play on the smallest fields allowing them to hear everything that everyone says to them! How many times have we seen a child turn around to a parent and say, "but the coach told me…" It’s a sure sign that you are interfering with your child’s fun. Let the coach do the coaching. You do the cheering.
SUPPORT the Referee Okay, this is very simple. Refs make mistakes. But, they are the authority in the game of soccer. If you want your child to be a good sport, respect authority and have fun, NEVER CRITICIZE THE REFEREE. Let’s be honest. Most of you don’t really know the rules (Laws) of soccer. Most of you don’t have a clue about the intricacies of the offsides rule. Do you know that your child can be knocked to the ground legally? A legal charge that knocks your son or daughter over is not a foul. Do you know that it is not a penalty for a larger player to out-physical a smaller player for the ball?
But, let’s get back to the mistakes. To have games, we must have referees. We recruit new refs EVERY YEAR. Does anyone think that a new ref is going to make the right call all the time? Of course not. But, does anyone really think that a ref is going to favor one side or the other? Please, these are games. Games as in fun and play. They are not life or death for anyone especially the ref! Assume the ref will make the same amount of mistakes for both sides. If you can deal with that you will be able to relax and enjoy the game a lot more.
Let’s use an example of another area of life to show you what happens if you, the parent, yell at the ref. Pretend you are in school watching your child learn. You don’t like the way the teacher has reprimanded your child. So, you scream at the teacher? Of course not. We realize that the analogy is not perfect. But, think about it. Do your kids follow your lead in how they interact with the world? Of course they do. If you are a ref screamer, expect your kids to be also. You wouldn’t want your child to yell at a teacher and we’re sure you don’t want them yelling at the ref either.
In any event, we must warn you about an important related topic: Referee abuse. It happens too often. We are not talking about physical assault (although we have seen that too). We are talking about a loud mouth Dad screaming at a 16 year old girl (refereeing an Under 10 game) that she belongs in the kitchen. We are talking about a coach (who has never read FIFA’s 20 pages of interpretation of the offsides rule) calling a referee an "idiot." We will not tolerate this type of verbal abuse. Refs have been instructed by their organization to hand out red cards to coaches who abuse them OR whose parents abuse them.
So, we are back to mistakes. Refs will make them. You will either learn that they are part of the game and refuse to let them ruin your enjoyment of your child’s fun. Or, you will keep your mouth shut because you don’t want the embarrassment of seeing a red card appear in your direction.
Again, the 3 tenets of support: SUPPORT the players , the coaches and the refs !