From the Evansville Courier Press, March 21, 2010
When it comes to soccer, there are times where I have to wear different hats — coach for most of the week and parent of a youth player at other times. Even when I am chasing after some of my own children as a 'soccer dad' (if we can have 'soccer moms', we can certainly have 'soccer dads', too), it is hard to totally displace my job as a soccer coach from my personal life.
This past weekend I was a spectator at a tournament with my daughter, and in the same way that you might 'people watch' when you are shopping in the mall or a passenger in the car, it was hard for me not to 'spectator watch' while on the sideline at these youth soccer games.
Coming from someone who is part soccer coach, and part 'soccer dad', here are some guidelines for behavior on the sideline at a youth soccer game.
Talking to the referees doesn't really help your team: No matter how knowledgeable you may feel you are, or how wrong you feel the referee may be, I have never seen an official change his call due to an argumentative parent's opinion. All that really does is embarrass your child and distract the referee from calling the game. Everyone is welcome to an opinion, and while you opinion might not be wrong, it really doesn't matter when you are sitting in a lawn chair watching little kids run around.
Why are you keeping stats?: Knowing that most youth soccer fields don't have scoreboards, there is nothing wrong with keeping track of the score. Not only is it one of the key factors in the game (both teams are trying to win, so it is essential to know the score), it is really the only statistic that is important in team sports. I was in disbelief when I walked by a field and saw a parent with a scorebook in their lap, filling out each player's name. I was so taken by it that I actually doubled back behind him to see what he was tracking. He had each player's name, position, minutes played — I found it both humorous and terrifying. I couldn't imagine why a parent would be so compelled to keep track of all that data rather than just sitting back and watching their child play. Surely the child or their coach couldn't care about that information, and even the most compulsive person would think that keeping that kind of data in an under-10 game is a little excessive.
Look at your child's expression when you yell at them: I am always surprised at how distracted a player can be when their own parent yells something during a game. It is not hard for a child to differentiate between their parent's voice and a stranger's, and I know that the last thing your son or daughter wants to be thinking about when a ball is traveling toward them is what instructions you are yelling at them. The reality is that if they really needed your instructions, you would have been asked to sit on the bench on the other side of the field and coach the team. The best youth soccer parents are the ones that give encouragement at the appropriate times — when the ball is out of play. The best youth soccer parents also keep their critical feedback to themselves during the game.
Your coach doesn't want to hear it, either: Watching a parent yell at their child's coach is almost as comical as watching them yell at their child. With a coach's focus centered on your child and their teammates, why would they want to be distracted by you? You entrusted that coach to work with your child, so let them do their job. Could you imagine that same coach visiting you at work to look over your shoulder?
Fortunately, for every 'little league' parent gone wild', there are 50 who have the correct focus and intentions. For the good of the game, as well as for the good of your kids, don't set a bad example.