Commentary

When parents pipe down children hit the right notes

By Jason Silva

I am 40 years old and have been coaching since I was 30, and playing since I was 4. When I decided to get my F License and coach, I knew that I was going to enjoy teaching young players the game I knew and loved to play. I continually educate myself, either through our state office or through other outlets like online or in-person seminars and diploma courses.

Through all my years, what concerns me most, are the sounds from the sideline. Sounds like: “Kick it!” … “Come on!” … “What are you doing?”… “I told you mark up!” … and the oh-so-horrible ... “Wait till we get in the car!” with that frustrated inflection.

I hear some good coaching from the coach and even over-coaching (which I am guilty of myself), and the famous joystick coaching where the coach or parent instructs the child on their every move as if they were controlling a video game joystick. They all mean well, but it's obviously not very positive for a young athlete.

However, one of the best sidelines I’ve ever been a part of, and learned the most from, was when I attended my daughter’s band concert. Let me paint the picture for you.

When my daughter entered 4th grade (9 years old) she decided to play the clarinet. Each night she would come home from school and practice before and after soccer practice. She was determined to master this instrument and learn all the music for the winter band concert.

Our household would suffer through “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Happy Birthday” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” -- over and over. After awhile, she progressed to songs like “Ode to Joy.” She worked on these until she played them perfectly, completely in tune and not a missing note, or a single “squeak” or “squawk.” She was ready!

The day of the band concert came. She was nervous and excited at the same time, and we could feel her jitters too. She was all dressed, clarinet packed and mom even secretly bought her flowers for afterward!

We arrived at the school, got her to the meeting room, and scurried off to the auditorium. The curtain opened, the band teacher talked for a minute about their hard work and dedication and the music started. At this point every single person with a phone in the auditorium had it raised up, recording, and were completely silent.

The band was in tune, perfect cadence, and in sync; it was the best Mary Had a Little Lamb I ever heard! Then it happened, “squeak” and they continued, “squawk,” then it ended. Whew! Crisis averted. They started the next song, and with the occasional missed note or “squeak,” but still, the audience was silent.

Then it hit me: What would this auditorium sound like if it were outside – parents watching a youth soccer game?

Just like the band members, the soccer players practice hard all week. Game day comes and they are nervous and ready. Their shoes are tied, bags packed with extra shirt and water bottle, they’re ready! The spectators find the best seat, get out their phones to video this great performance. …

And then, there is yelling! If it was at the band recital it would sound something like this; “No Johnny! C, not C Sharp!” … “Stay in sync with the rest of the band!" … “How could you play that note!” … “Wait till we get in the car!”

I leave you with this thought: What are the differences between the concert and the game?

How is a coach different than a bandleader? I would argue that both are qualified to lead the children in the talent they have been teaching them; children look to their leaders to guide them, and would be distracted by disruptive voices calling out what they should be doing. I would encourage you to release your child to the game, sit back and enjoy everything that they do -- whether it’s what you want to see or not.

After the game, please don’t go through a blow by blow of everything you saw. Instead, love them, and in the car ride home talk about anything else but the game. Because the only words they should hear is how much you love watching them play!

(Jason Silva coaches at Point Pleasant SC in New Jersey and is a club vice president. He was named New Jersey Youth Soccer Recreational Coach of the Year in 2012 and has a U.S. Youth Soccer National Youth License.)

13 comments about "When parents pipe down children hit the right notes ".
  1. beautiful game, December 18, 2015 at 2:32 p.m.

    The coach is the leader of the team and the "conductor" with the parents. If he's the type that prepares the team and keeps mum on the sidelines, he can ask the parents to respond in like manner. Loud coaches inspire parents to get into the act of yelling. Let the kids play and if needed, make adjustments at half-time.

  2. barbara jesberger-mcintosh, December 18, 2015 at 2:44 p.m.

    I love your analogy. I totally understand your point and having a 14 year old daughter that plays highly competitive soccer and also plays in a honor / selective orchestra , I couldn't help but laugh !! It's too bad that the rest of the soccer nuts / parents can't see their own ridiculous behavior . I don't know why they act like children on the sidelines - perhaps they were the ones that never played sports or were never "true" athletes !!! They make me sick and they are a total distraction to the game !!

  3. charles davenport, December 18, 2015 at 2:56 p.m.

    brilliant!

  4. Kent James, December 18, 2015 at 5:57 p.m.

    While I agree with the point you are making, I would argue the analogy is flawed. The Orchestra is performing specifically for the audience. Kids playing a soccer game are not. They are performing only for themselves. They'll play the game even if the parents aren't watching (and probably enjoy it more in that case). But I certainly agree that parents shouting at their kids from the sidelines is often harmful.

  5. James Madison, December 18, 2015 at 6:16 p.m.

    When I conduct (heh, heh) a youth coaching clinic, I introduce the coaching during the game segment by saying, "My name is Jim. I am a recovering shoutaholic." I continue with a couple of illustrative stories about the detrimental effects of shouting. One involved the overly voluble coach at a community college game I was refereeing. Midway through the second half a player who was bout to take a DFK asked me, "Could you please red card our coach." Jason's illustration deserves to be added.

  6. stewart hayes, December 18, 2015 at 7:15 p.m.

    Everything you say is so true. Some ways we suggested to help cure parents of their need to 'coach' was to suggest telling them at the start of the season, 'If you want to coach your child during the game we will sub them out so you can talk to them'. Another idea was to set up a parent game and then have the coach 'coach' them incessantly making a point of telling them how to do everything. Pretty soon one of parents will tell you to shut up, and at that, you have made your point. It is odd that parents who know next to nothing about how to play become experts when they are on the sideline.

  7. Lonaka K, December 18, 2015 at 8:56 p.m.

    Thank you Jason Silva. I've coached youth soccer for over 35 years and have been a spectator for 10. I have said this for the last 20 years that our youth development program develops robots. Like you said, just listen to the comments from coaches, parents and fans, "kick the ball, dribble, shoot, pass." My thought here is analogous to your band concert, our children from K-Ph.D are schooled during rhe week and given a test on Friday. I can't recall ever where the teacher provides the answer to the students. Why do coaches and parents try to give answers to the players. THAT IS WHY WE IN THE US DO NOT HAVE CREATIVE PLAYERS. BECAUSE WHAT EVER THEY DO THE CIACHES AND PARENTS ALWAYS HAVE A BETTER ANSWER.
    About half way through my coaching career, I realize that a player has multiple solutions to his actions. He gets graded on how well he chooses the correct action. I'm sure all of you have wondered why a player made a certain pass when a better choice was there for his choosing. I think all criticism and correction instruction should be made after reviewing the game tapes. Often you will why a player chooses a certain option.
    So my bottom line is that ALL COACHES, ALLL COACHES AT THE YOUTH LEVEL BE BANNED FROM GIVING ANY INSTRCTION TO THERE PLAYERS. A penalty should be awarded if the coach is reprimand three times for yelling out instructions.

  8. R2 Dad, December 18, 2015 at 9:10 p.m.

    Youth soccer has become all about the coaches. Parents have become the enablers. Change that, and you can fix youth soccer in this country.

  9. Jim Froslid, December 19, 2015 at 7:42 a.m.

    Great comparison. Really puts it into perspective. Reminds when I had a 1st grade player who was dribbling toward the goal his team was defending. A few parents start screaming at the top of their lungs "you are going the wrong way!" What they did not understand was the kid was dribbling toward open space so he could then get to the opposite side of the field, make a pass into the middle and his teammate scored a brilliant goal!

  10. Michael Mandica, December 19, 2015 at 9:46 a.m.

    To help add to your point Jason, have you ever noticed the team playing after a practice or game all by themselves. No coach's or spectators, just the boys playing amongst themselves. They go all out, no hesitation, no fear of making mistake, no looking over for coach or parent approval. It's great to observe from afar, cause you get to see some real good creative soccer from them. While we were watching one day, one parent commented,"Why can't they do that in a game?" The answer to that is in this article. Let the game be theirs and sit back and enjoy the show. Great read and thanks for shedding light on this topic

  11. Bob Ashpole, December 20, 2015 at 12:45 a.m.

    Well said, Mr. Silva.

  12. Goal Goal, December 20, 2015 at 11:07 p.m.

    I agree!!

  13. Bill Riviere, December 21, 2015 at 8:39 a.m.

    Referees can help to some extent. I have been refereeing youth soccer for 20 years and probably have heard it all from both coaches and parents. In youth games I deal with coaches by asking them to refrain from the loud stuff-they usually give me an opportunity to do this by also critcizing the referee team, so I deal with both, reminding them that the game is about the kids having fun. After the first request, the door is open for me to offer reminders later in the game.
    As for the parents who are over the top, I address them as a group from the midline during a play stoppage, reminding them that our state association has a rule that coaches must be (only) on the team sideline and that only positive, encouraging comments are due from the parent sideline. I almost always get a round of applause and positive results.

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