Parents Role During Games

Youth soccer parents and coaches are infamous for being categorized as the crazy, obnoxious, boisterous "Sideline Generals". From the comfort of our lawn chairs we are very good at directing players, making calls for referees, and sometimes even gathering to have your own coaching discussion about the coaches coaching decisions.    

I want to discuss our expectations about sideline instructions. (Keep reading) I think I can speak for all coaches and players when I say, we want to hear cheers, applauds, and you making noise! What I ask of our Cajun Soccer Club parents/family and even our Cajun Soccer Club coaches is to minimize the sideline instruction. Although providing clear instruction and guidance at appropriate moments can facilitate young players' learning, many of us make the mistake of relentlessly bombarding youngsters with information and directions during games. We fail to understand that when we take this approach we end up creating a chaotic commotion that serves no help to anyone and simply suppresses the player's liberty to make their own decisions. For example, some of the most popular phrases that can be heard from the sideline are:

- "Pass it!"
- "Shoot!"
- "BOOT it!"
- "Be Aggressive!"
- "Not in there!"
Soccer is a player-centered sport. Soccer players have to make their own decisions in the moment whether it be wrong or right, they have to make it and learn from it. They have to rely on imagination, spontaneity, and creativity to create chances for themselves. So, how do we expect to create a team that can possess the ball and complete good passes if we don't cheer for complete passes. Instead we sometimes cheer for the hardest kick up the field. We don't hear shouts and celebrations when a player wins a tackle or controls a ball out of the air. We're quick to shout "Pass it!" Or "Shoot!" and having taken away that idea from the player, we won't find out what the player would have done to begin with. We miss out on watching a player express themselves in a game that is theirs to begin with, so Cheer Don't Steer and enjoy the game. 

The importance of body language is something I've tried to constantly remind our players about and how much our body actually communicates. I try to remind them to unfold their arms, stand up straight, and when something goes wrong... pick your head up. Body language, from what I've learned, has a direct affect with how we feel about ourselves. If we drop our head and slump our shoulders than we're most likely feeling down and blah. If we sit alert in our chair, on the edge of our seat, and make eye contact than we're most likely to absorb information, listen, and improve. 

I have seen time and time again players try to execute a certain action on the field (i.e. lose the ball or even score a goal) and immediately look over to the parent or the coach for instant gratification. This is actually said to suffocate progress and deter a student or athlete from working harder because every action needs to be validated. We, as coaches and as parents, throw our hands in the air, shout like crazy, highlight their mistake, and even physically and metaphorically speaking, turn our back on the players. All of this does nothing to improve a players chances to excel, it breaks them down, discourages their interest in the game, and keeps them from enjoying the "game". 

It's important, as adults, to be able to step back and keep things in perspective. Games and kids will get heated and may act in the heat of the moment, but they should look over to us and be reminded to be better. Our body language should remind them to relax, mistakes are ok, and keep playing. Parent Education is very important and I take this part of the job very seriously. If we better ourselves through coaching and parent education then we'll create a better environment for our kids, so they can excel to the highest of their potential