After over 16 years of coaching in grassroots and the community, you would think that I have seen it all and nothing would shock me.
But still after all this time seeing the conduct of some coaches and parents still baffles me to this day.
Just a couple of weeks ago from writing this, I was watching my son’s football match from the sidelines.
At the time it was a close game with both teams competing well and the opposing team had just won a corner kick.
Suddenly, I kept hearing from their coach “push him junior, PUSH HIM” he said loudly!
“Don’t let him get near you push him out the way” he persisted to say!
This wasn’t the last of it, at various other periods of the game I “go in on him hard” and “let him know you there” this is u12 football I should remind you!
As disappointing this was to see I couldn’t help but think how often this was happening up and down the country in grassroots football, coaches and parents letting their emotions get the better of them.
Do you think this is creating a positive environment for young players?
Are we teaching them respect and good ethics when we are encouraging them to potentially ‘harm’ other players to gain an advantage?
I can hear it now “Kurtis you are being too soft” or “we are just teaching them to stand up for themselves in the game, it’s a contact sport”.
Yes, it is true that it is a contact sport but purposely making contact with a player to ‘let him know you are there’ will not help you produce better football players, which is the most important thing at this age.
So why do some coaches and parents feel it is okay to communicate with their players in this way?
What can we do instead to create an environment at games that will allow the players to have a positive experience that will do wonders for their development?
Would You Talk Like That Outside of Football?
This is a question I have asked some people in the past as I was interested in their response.
What I have found Is, on most occasions outside of the game we as parents would try to promote good behaviors and habits because we want our children to not only be good human beings but also realize there are better ways to make progress in life.
Have you ever had someone scream instructions at you? My guess is many of you have especially if you have been involved in some type of sport as a child or adult.
How did it make you feel?
Did it make you play better? Or was it more of a distraction for you?
I would be incredibly surprised to hear many say that having instructions such as the ones above constantly shouted at them has a positive influence on their game.
There is a reason why you don’t talk like that outside of the game because A) it’s not teaching your child to make good choices B) by constantly telling them what to do you are taking away opportunities for them to learn independently, which prepares them for real-life situations!
In most situations, it is normally us as parents doing the teaching or we get someone else to teach our kids a new skill.
In every process, there is always a way of assessing what children have learned whether that is in a test or a game of some sort (a real situation).
If you were to contradict the coach or do everything for them when it comes to the real situation, are they really learning?
At times I feel many other of us and I can even include myself in this at times find it hard to just let kids ‘get on with it once we have spent all that time teaching them how to do the right things!
But what we must realize is having this mindset of always stepping in before giving them the chance to solve the problem will more than likely hinder their development then help.
I can already hear some of you now “so how do help them in matches when they are struggling?”.
For me there are two answers depending on what your role is and right now I am refereeing to the coach and parent.
If you are coach in most situations less is more but occasionally reminding players of certain things with quick ‘cues’ to get them thinking and encourage positive play I am not totally against, for example “Can we keep the ball” or “Dan, remember if he goes forward can you…”.
As you can see with the last comment, sometimes I like to question them so they can come to the solution themselves. Even in the game they can still learn.
Remember to use this sporadically as the should be used as an assessment of you have previously taught in training.
Are they trying to deliver the topic you have been working on in the game? Are they showing for ball slightly side on (showing the shoulder not chest) allowing them to turn quicker if they have space and scan the better? Etc.
If you are a parent, then the advice is similar, but your messaging is different such as not giving your child instructions from the sidelines!
I know it can be difficult to watch your child make mistakes and not do nothing but a lot of time with anything it is our biggest failures that become our best lessons!
It is your job as a parent to help them realize this guidance and assurance that they can overcome situations that they find difficult.
The occasional “well done” or ‘thumbs up’ during the game is enough and helps create a positive environment for the child.
There is no need to be a commentator throughout game and pick out every fault with your child.
I can guarantee they are fully aware of the mistakes that they are making and having you point out every single one will only make the situation worst.
Yes, You Are A Role Model!
I think we tend to forget how much we can influence children as coaches and parents.
I remember when my son was about 9, he was playing for his local Sunday team against a side that had a reputation for being a very ‘physical’ team and they didn’t disappoint.
They were making tackles when the ball was nowhere near the player, purposefully trying to intimidate our players and swearing at the referee.
During this game, I looked over to their manager and there was no response, it was almost as if he was happy with how they were conducting themselves.
Bear in mind, this wasn’t the first time that his players were behaving like this as they had already built a reputation for being overly aggressive in their approach.
There was one player that was getting all the attention because of his attitude and conduct during the game.
He was kicking players off the ball, shouting back at the ref, swearing at our players, and several other things.
It probably wasn’t a surprise to you that this team was reported to the football association shortly after.
For me, the coach has the power to stop this situation from ever getting to this stage.
Right from the start, when a player joins a team, he/she and their parents should be informed of what the club’s expectations are.
Don’t just leave them with a document at the start of the season and never mention it again, remind them throughout the season, and when someone slips up make sure you address it!
Parents should also look out for how a club deals with difficult behavior because would you really want your child playing for a team that can’t control their players and parents? I know wouldn’t.
Never forget the power of your words and actions when it comes to youth development.
Used incorrectly and it can make a player fall out of love with the game, used correctly and you can boost their confidence while accelerating development!
There are reasons why many elite academies around Europe have a ‘silent’ policy for parents during games and encourage their coaches to say less to their players.
Remember ‘development comes first’!
Prepare the right environment and watch them flourish, put them in a toxic one and see how quickly it can go the opposite direction.
How will you choose to behave at your next youth football game?
Leave a comment below.