The noise from the whistle by the official signals the start of the game, with young players eager to impress both sides of the sideline. Coaches on one side of the field, parents/guardians on the opposite, and players taking centre stage. Parents that observe the beautiful game of football will at some point think/ask themselves, “Shall I shout anything?”, “I want to look and sound like I’m being positive and offer encouragement”. Parents may feel if they remain silent or say too little they are deemed unsupportive or lack interest in their child’s level of participation
With parents being highlighted as one of the major influences on a child’s level of enjoyment and participation, it’s important firstly to understand and appreciate what your son or daughter may want from you as a youth sports parent. Simply ask them before the game, a child will tell you what they want and it may differ from game to game. We often think we know what our children want, and parents will always have their child’s interests at heart. We continue to hear/see parents scream/yell aggressively on the sideline. Just ask them, you might be surprised with the answer given.
Once the game is underway and players are within the bubble of fun with friends, parents need to respect the given environment. The children play the game, therefore it’s theirs to enjoy, parents should take a hands-off approach in such an environment and situation that doesn’t belong to them. Naturally, such an approach will cut any unnecessary stress and decrease the eagerness to influence the game by yelling avoidable statements that negatively influence the levels of enjoyment and participation.
Taking a “Hand-off” approach doesn’t mean you remain silent or unnerved throughout the game, it solely provides a perspective that it’s a youth game where players are given opportunities to take chances to learn, make mistakes and grow as individuals and players. Young players learning the game will inevitably make mistakes, we should look at the scenario at hand and have realistic expectations. They’re not the “perfect player” yet, like anything we venture upon in life, we will make mistakes, will then logically reflect and learn. If you allow players to fail we provide them with an opportunity to be brave, in overcoming the mistake, finding the solution and learning on their own accord.
If any problems on the field can be solved through guidance from the coach and/or knowledge from the players, why is there a need to assist in that process? Worrying or interfering will do no good in the long run. Taking another perspective, when children have tests/examinations, they find solutions to problems from knowledge gained, not from parents yelling at them from the hallway. Forget about all the reasons why something may not work. You only need to find one good reason why it will, finding the best solution may not happen straight away every player develops at their own pace.
The truth of the matter is there is no reason to interfere, because it’s their game, not yours. Whenever you feel the urge to shout negatively or steal learning opportunities from the child, STOP, reflect and consider the environment and learning opportunities given to the child to develop. There is no actual stress from observing the game, it’s your thoughts that create such beliefs. You can’t package stress, touch it or see it. There are only people engaged in stressful thinking, or who feel like they NEED to interfere, STOP!
To conclude and answer the initial question “Shall I shout anything?”, it depends firstly on what your son or daughter wants, secondly if they are happy for you to shout during the game, make sure you consider what is said, how it’s said and when and to who? Attempt to be positive at all times, with a positive and enthusiastic tone of voice to the player and the whole team. At times, simplicities are better for example a smile or thumbs up. Revert from showing negative behaviour or using a tone of voice that can be deemed angry or frustrated. Remember to have perspective and if you’re ever unsure of what to say, it is best to ask the coach what can be said. Working within the athletic triangle to provide the best environment for the player to reach one’s potential.
Enjoy watching your son/daughter play the game, it won’t last forever, cherish the memories and smiles.