10 Things parents should take on board when it comes to their behaviour at junior grassroots football
Parents behaviour at grassroots football has become a key talking point. The vast majority of parents who attend their child’s grassroots matches are great. They are committed, supportive, encouraging and there for their child, whether it is a win, draw or loss. The best ones can keep an open perspective on it all and demonstrate respect for all, at all times. However, there can be some parents who display the wrong sort of inappropriate behaviour which can lead to creating the wrong environment, which can be harmful on and off the pitch.
We have put together a suggested list of ten things a football parent should be aware of which will help towards a more harmonious environment in your team amongst parents, players and coaches.
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 create distraction and confusion. It can be very unnerving for many young players to try and perform difficult tasks on the field on the spur of the moment when parents are yelling at them from the sidelines. Let the kids play. 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.
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. Instead, discourage such toxic behavior by listening patiently to any negative comments that might be made, then address issues in a positive way. Speak of the positive qualities of a player, family or coach, not the negative.
Do your level 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. If you have what you truly feel is a legitimate problem with your child’s coach – either regarding game strategy or playing time, arrange an appointment to meet privately, away from the pitch.
Make only positive comments from the sidelines
Be encouraging. Young players 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 training. Additionally, Avoid making any negative comments about players on the other team, or the match officials. This should be simple: we are talking about youngsters, not adults who are being paid to play professionally. If you do find yourself in a situation around abusive parents, raise the issue with your club secretary or Child Welfare Officer.
Try to keep interaction with parents on the other team as healthy and positive as possible
Who’s kidding whom? You want your child’s team to win. So do they. But that should not make us take leave of our senses, especially our common sense. Be courteous ’till it hurts; avoid the ‘tit for tat’ syndrome. Remember, parents on the ‘other’ team are not the enemy. Neither are the boys or girls on the other team.
Do not criticise the referees
What is the easiest thing to do in the youth sports world? Criticise the referees. Don’t criticise the referees. There are times when the officials make mistakes. And that can, unfortunately, directly affect the outcome of a game. That said, by and large those who officiate at youth football games are hardly overcompensated, and give it an honest – and often quite competent – effort. At worst, they at least try to be fair and objective. Give them a break! Furthermore, 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.
Don’t show ‘superficial’ support
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.
Walking up and down all game long along the sidelines, following the play, is a ‘no-no’
This is unnerving to players and totally unnecessary- 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. If you want to coach, obtain your coaching certification and then apply for a job!
Don’t say things in the heat of the moment
We all feel things and are apt to be tempted to say things in the ‘heat of the moment’. But 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 behaviour. Ask yourself this: will I be proud of what I am about to say or do when I reflect on it tomorrow?
The car park is not the time to ‘fan the flames’
Whether it is a coach’s decision, a referee’s call, a comment that was made, let it go. Don’t harass the coach, or an official, or a parent on the other team after the game is over. Go home, relax, and unwind. Talk positively with your child. The trip home is sometimes as important as the game itself. Make that time a good memory for your son or daughter by discussing as many positives as you can about him/her, her coach, her teammates, etc.
We hope that this will be useful to all parents with children involved in junior grassroots football, whether you have been watching for years or are a ‘newbie’ in your first season as a grassroots parent. Junior Grassroots should be fun and enjoyable, and parents play a big role in ensuring the best environment for everyone. Much of this comes down to one basic thing; Respect. In every situation, always consider your actions and ask yourself, whether this is illustrating respect. To gain a better understanding of the role and expectations of parents at your club, it may also be worth speaking to your club about a parent’s Code of Conduct, as many clubs have one.