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Joystick coaching and parenting hinder development

By, 10/19/17, 7:30AM EDT


The South Carolina Youth Soccer Association recently announced a Silent September for all soccer sidelines in the entire state. Yes, you read that correctly – it’s not a Silent Saturday or Sunday as we’ve become accustomed to – it’s the entire month of September.

Parents in South Carolina have been put in Time Out. Time to reflect.

Parents will be required to sign a Code of Conduct agreeing to be silent and specific guidelines have been put in place regarding how to handle parents and coaches unwilling to support the silence. Parents can be banned from games, coaches can be ejected and games can be forfeited. Additionally, coaches (who are allowed to talk) are required to address referees with a sign of respect as “Referee” (instead of all the other ways they tend to be addressed.)

I applaud this bold move by the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association and the Soccer Parenting Association will be following the roll out, response and ramifications closely.

Much of the feedback I’ve seen online about the Silent September initiative is that it feels like ALL the parents are being “punished” because of a FEW. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.

First, it’s not just Hostile communication that must be stopped. Many Level Headed parents coach from the sidelines and this is counter-productive to development and enjoyment for young players.

Second, I don’t think parents in South Carolina need to view this as a punishment. I think they should try to view it as an opportunity. There are many positive outcomes (opportunities) that will happen as a result of this initiative.

Potential Positive Outcomes:

Perspective to Level Headed Parents

Silent Saturday’s or Sunday’s are a novel concept. They are an event. And because they are usually held once a season, the lessons they seek to impart upon parents, coaches, and players are not fully realized.

My prediction is that there will be hundreds and hundreds of parents who, at the end of September, have truly changed their behavior on the sidelines permanently. I’m talking about Level-Headed Parents. These are the parents who are supportive in nature, but who find themselves distracting their child by giving them directions such as “Pass to…” or “Go get the ball!”

If these parents can realize that their child is able to perform well without them giving them direction, then maybe they will see how unnecessary (not to mention counterproductive to development) their distractive communication is.

Referees Will Be Able to Develop

Can you imagine how you would feel if you were trying to do something very difficult, that required constant deep thought and awareness, and you were being distracted by people calling out to you, screaming at you, telling you that you were not doing your work correctly? It would be a real challenge to get better at your work, to improve and learn. We need to have perspective on the sidelines and understand that the referees on the fields are novice referees, seeking to learn and improve just as our children playing are seeking to do.

Maybe if we give referees a break from our barrage of commentary, they will be better able to learn and grow and develop.

Maybe if we give referees a break from our barrage of commentary they will find more enjoyment in the work they do and not quit. (Our referee shortage is a real problem.)

Maybe if we give referees a break from our barrage of commentary we will realize that the game is just that – a game.

Maybe if we give ourselves a break from our barrage of commentary we will realize how enjoyable it is to watch our child and their teammates and opponents compete and find joy on the field.

Coaches Will Be Able to Coach

All coaches have a different coaching style.

Some are very talkative (oftentimes this can border on being distractive) and some sit quietly. There is no right or wrong style, it’s personal.

I predict two things will happen with the coaches.

1. The coaches who talk too much, who “joystick” their players will suddenly realize how much they are talking and it will feel as such. They will calm down a bit.

2. The players will start to really hear the coach talk to them – so when they are given some instruction – get this – they will LEARN.

And – parents will learn too! Because they are quiet on the sidelines – they will hear the coach’s coaching points and learn a bit about the nuances of the game as well.

Crazy Soccer Parents Will Not Be Welcome

Good riddance to the Crazy Soccer Parents who have been controlling our sidelines for way too long. You’ve got that right, I have no compassion for them at all. They are taking the joy out of soccer for players, parents, coaches and referees and I am thrilled they will not be welcome on the sidelines in South Carolina this September!

Soccer Parents verbally abusing referees and other players is simply not acceptable.

I predict there will be real issues that come out of this.

I predict police will be called to fields and there will be special meetings of Boards of Directors. Good! We need a cultural shift – and that comes with a change in behavior. Boards need to be ready to stand up to these parents – and ban them from the sidelines if they are not willing to follow the Code of Conduct.


Yes. But necessary.

Sadly, I also predict a Crazy Soccer Parent will file a Freedom of Speech lawsuit.

Players Will Play with Joy – Maybe Even Play Better

Our kids don’t want to hear their parents on the sidelines. It makes soccer “not fun.” When Dr. Amanda Visek from George Washington University surveyed youth soccer players in her groundbreaking “Fun Factor” and “Not Fun Factor” studies she found that what makes soccer “Not Fun” to players – were “parents yelling at referees” and “parents coaching from the sidelines”.

When soccer isn’t fun – kids will quit playing.

And, when players aren’t being distracted, they may even grow and develop more as a player.

Potential Negative Outcomes

Hmmmm….I’ve been racking my mind here trying to come up with a potential negative outcome of Silent September. I know my son, a recreation level player, likes to hear my voice now and then. I know that there are times where I help him stay focused simply by calling out his name when he is distracted and not paying attention.

But I have a hard time saying my son being challenged to keep himself focused, or having to learn to play without my voice encouraging him (self motivation) is a negative thing.

The Soccer Parenting Association is launching The Sideline Project this Fall for our Club Members at The Sideline Project is a parent and coach education program with dripped content over the course of the season to help parents curb their negative or distracting behavior on the sidelines. If you are interested in learning more, FOLLOW THIS LINK.

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