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Parent Sideline Etiquette


We all recognize that soccer is a very passionate game, for players and fans. But when it comes to youth soccer, the soccer pitch can bring out some of the worst instincts that we have. We all want our sons and daughters to play hard, to play well, and have fun. We want them to be well coached and play on a team that is competitive. We want them to benefit in a host of ways from being involved in competitive athletics. Yet we as parents, can impact their joy and how much they will actually benefit in a negative way. This happens because of our behavior at practices and especially during games. 

The below is a reminder of the things that we can do on the sidelines all year long to make every soccer season more pleasant for all. Most importantly, for the continued growth of our soccer players. Please read the VAA sideline etiquette below:


1. Let the coaches’ coach.

If you are telling your son or daughter, or any other player for that matter, to do something different from what their coach is telling them, you will create distraction and confusion.

2. Let the kids play.

It is very distracting for young players to perform difficult tasks on the field at the spurt of the moment when parents are yelling at them from the sidelines.  If they have been well coached, they should know what to do on the field. If they make a mistake, chances are they will learn from it.

3. Do not discuss the play of specific young players in front of other parents. 

How many times do you hear comments such as, “I don’t know how that boy made this team….” or “she’s just not fast enough…”. Too many parents act as though their child is a ‘star’, and the problem is someone else’s kid. Negative comments and attitudes are hurtful and totally unnecessary and kill parent harmony, which is often essential to youth team success.

4. Speak to the positive qualities of a player, family or coach. 

Discourage such toxic behavior by listening patiently to any negative comments that might be made, then address issues in a positive way.

5. Do your best not to complain about your son or daughter’s coaches to other parents. 

Once that starts, it is like a disease that spreads. Before you know it, parents are talking constantly in a negative way behind a coach’s back. (As an aside, if you have what you truly feel is a legitimate beef with your child’s coach—either regarding game strategy or playing time, arrange an appointment to meet privately, away from a soccer field.)

6. Make positive comments from the sideline. Be encouraging. 

Young athletes do not need to be reminded constantly about their perceived errors or mistakes. Their coaches will instruct them, either during the game or at half time, and during practices. You can often see a young player make that extra effort when they hear encouraging words from the sideline about their hustle.

7. Avoid making any negative comments about players on the other team.

This should be simple: we are talking about young children, not adults who are being paid to play professionally. You can control your behavior and actions.  What you cannot control is what is being said by the other team's parents or players. You may not agree with some things they may be saying on the sideline, as you will be in close proximity.  Tasteless and classless behavior may arise, but it should be ignored.  We as parents and coaches should always act with good sportsmanship and leading by example. 

8. Try to keep interaction with parents on the other team as healthy and positive as possible.

We want our child’s team play well and to win. They want to win too. Be courteous ‘till it hurts—avoid the ‘tit for tat’ syndrome.

9. Demonstrate good sportsmanship towards your opponent's families.

Parents on the "other" team are not the enemy. Neither are the boys or girls on the other team. We should check any negative feelings at the door before we hit the pitch.

10. Be respectful towards the referees at all times.

One of the easiest things to do in the youth sports world is to criticize the referees. There will be times when calls are missed, and that can unfortunately directly affect the outcome of a contest. That said, our coaches will communicate with the referees, being respectful and courteous. Coaches will certainly speak up for the team if we feel the correct calls are being made. 

11. Do not blame the referee. 

Outbursts from parents on the sideline made toward the referees only signal to our own children on the field that they can blame the refs for anything that goes wrong. Blaming others is not a formula for success in sports.

12. Do not make any comments to the referee.

Yelling out comments such as “Good call, ref” or “Thanks ref” may only serve to alienate an official. The ref always assumes they made the proper call, that’s why they made it. Trying to show superficial support because the call went "your" way is simply annoying to the officials, and to anyone within earshot.

13. Parents should not coach from the sidelines.

Walking up and down all game long along the sidelines, following the play, is unnerving to players.  Particularly so if you are trying to yell out instructions to various players, including your own son or daughter. It is likely embarrassing to the player/players involved and simply counterproductive.

14. Maintain your dignity.

We all feel things and are apt to be tempted to say things in the "heat of the moment".  We don’t excuse athletes for doing inappropriate things in the ‘heat of the moment’ (there are penalties, suspensions, etc.), so we should apply similar standards to our own sideline behavior. Quickly ask yourself, will I be proud of what I am about to say or do when I reflect on it tomorrow?

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