It's a perfect time to let kids play without parents on the sidelines

Across the United States, the United Kingdom and most of the world, sports are taking place with either no crowd or a small one.

So why is youth soccer different? And isn’t this an opportunity to hit the reset button on the toxic atmosphere parents can create?

Some organizations are doing a good job of convincing parents to be safe. Parents wear masks. They spread out into small family units.

Some aren’t.

Let’s be clear -- all of the current data says playing soccer poses a minimal risk of COVID-19 transmission. Players racing past each other do not constitute “close contact,” according to the CDC definition. A study in the Netherlands found the closest contact on the soccer field was in a goal celebration, something players and coaches can limit. Organizations that have tracked transmission have found little reason for concern. Last week, Wisconsin researchers said the numbers they’ve compiled from 90,000 players showed one single case of transmission during soccer play itself. With safety measures in place, the Wisconsin survey showed, youth soccer players have a significantly lower rate of infection than the rest of the country’s youth.

And we shouldn’t forget that NWSL and MLS, along with the NBA and WNBA, managed to pull off successful “bubble” events. The NFL has had the most cases among major sports but has managed to avoid an outbreak within the league.

The question is whether the sidelines and stands can be as safe as the field. As the proud son of a University of Georgia professor, I’m happy to see the Bulldogs play football (except against Alabama), but I cringe when I see massive clusters of students with no masks on.

In my region, referees have been told they’re not responsible for making parents spread out and wear masks. But then who is? (The parents responsible for the toxic atmosphere I described earlier this fall were, predictably, not the least bit compliant, even after an opposing coach complained in an earlier game.)

So why not tell the parents to take a hike?

We’ve been sounding the alarm on parents ruining sports for their kids for years now. Hockey Canada had a clever set of ads with kids turning the tables on their parents, and another Canadian group released a heart-rending ad with a glum kid in a car listening to his overbearing dad after a practice.

“(P)arents are starting to inject their own experiences, or past failures if you will, onto their children,” Kobe Bryant said last year.

When I returned to rec-league reffing over the weekend, I didn’t experience anything as bad as the garbage I encountered at the Big Tournament a couple of weeks ago. But I heard one dad berating his kid throughout the game, using a lot of the same belittlements found in the excellent Canadian ads linked above. After his son was partially responsible for conceding a goal, I saw that he had taken several steps past the sideline. Unfortunately for him, this game’s ref wasn’t one of the timid teenagers this league usually has. I had a word with him and the team’s coach.

Imagine how much more fun kids will have without parents like that sitting on and stepping over the sideline.

The sideline ban doesn’t have to be permanent. But if parents want to act like toddlers, maybe they need a timeout. And if we can short-circuit the spread of COVID-19 at the same time, so much the better.

10 comments about "It's a perfect time to let kids play without parents on the sidelines".
  1. William Yarnall, October 26, 2020 at 4:24 p.m.

    If we're forking out a couple K per season plus travel costs, perhaps you'll allow us to attend a few games, what do you think???

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, October 26, 2020 at 5:17 p.m.

    William, youth sports are not for parents.

    Agree 100% with you, Beau.

  3. Kent James replied, October 27, 2020 at 10:29 p.m.

    You seem to be missing the point.  Are you paying that money so your child can develop, or so they can entertain you?  While I understand your desire to see your child play, if the child can't play without you there, that's a problem.  And if you feel the need to be at every game, you might want to examine that need. The child should be playing for themself, not to please you.  Maybe you are one of the well-behaved parents (and there are lots of those), but your sarcastic response would suggest otherwise.

  4. Paul Cox replied, November 3, 2020 at 4:30 a.m.

    "I spent a lot of money so I should get what I want" pretty well sums up a massive number of the problems with youth soccer in the United States. 

    Thanks for putting it so clearly.

  5. uffe gustafsson, October 26, 2020 at 6:08 p.m.

    Parents have to wear a respitory mask to watch a game that way no real sound will be heard. LOL

  6. Beau Dure replied, October 29, 2020 at 5 p.m.

    I like it.

  7. R2 Dad, October 27, 2020 at 10:51 a.m.

    Cal-N is still shut down. With all schools planning to teach remotely through June, all Rescheduled sports will be canceled. We're destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of kids because Bending The Curve had to become Not One More Death. Thank/blame Gavin Newsome. Angela Merkle told Germans they will all probably get the virus. Who is being more responsible?

  8. Paul Cox replied, November 3, 2020 at 4:31 a.m.

    I absolutely guarantee that these kids' lives are not being "destroyed" because they can't play soccer for a season or two. 

  9. humble 1, October 27, 2020 at 1:17 p.m.

    I played countless hours of baseball, football(pigskin) and basketball growing up - without my parents looking on - at the local rec center run by Methodists.  Last friday I took my son now a teenager to a technical training with mixed age groups.  All the parents of the U-Littles were parked in their chairs quieltly enjoying the training.  No problem.  I was up north for a couple of months and my son moonlighted with a local club.  Between league play and tournaments he played almost 20 games.  Not a problem at one.  It's not just parents, frequently you see families out enjoying their young one's play.  Before that back home, my son returned to club training in June, training behind fence with temp check before entry and sign in sheet for tracing.  Parents could watch from car or chair, but outside fence.  No games.  So essentially since June, my son has been training and playing full time and I've been interacting with other parents outside at practice, tournaments and games.  All done with respect for local health ordinances.  All clear, no issues.  Carry on, please.  Best to all. 

  10. humble 1 replied, October 27, 2020 at 1:26 p.m.

    May I add that in Utah where we visited and my son played this summer, opposing teams benches are on opposite side of field and families sit on side of the team they support.  Furthermore, after each game, players proceed to the opposite side of the field to be applauded by the families of their opponents.  Only once in 20 games did our opponent not come to be applauded and that was after they lost in a hard faught tournament final.  There was no shortage of hard tackles, yellow and red cards, the fodder was there, but there really were no issues.  I like the system they use in Utah for their youth.  Closing with acknowlegement from your opponents fans for a job well done, that is good stuff.  Without parents, you don't have that.  Keep it going up there in the Beehive state! 

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