In my son’s last football match, I thought it would be interesting to see how many times I heard the term ‘get rid of it’ or something along those lines and count them.
I heard the term mentioned 38 times!!
And that was with me going to the bar in between so it could have been more.
And I have been told grassroots football has improved over the years? Still waiting to see the evidence of it.
Besides the fact that the FA has introduced various campaigns to restrict the involvement of parents during matches, nothing much has changed.
So, what is the answer you might be thinking?
In my experience, if you set the tone and create the right culture at your club then parents can be a dream to work with.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you still get the odd rebel but with the procedures in place even, they can be won around to your way of thinking.
Now I know what you might be thinking “what’s wrong with constantly telling my players/child what to do in the game?”
Here is why using such terms like ‘Get rid of it’ or ‘Get stuck in’ or even ‘Stop trying to be Messi’ can set your players/child back not move them forward!
How You Might Be Holding Your Player/Child Back!
Many parents and coaches have the best intentions for their players/child before the game, but something just switches once that whistle blows, it becomes about winning, Nothing else!
Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t love to win a game of football at any level and our children are no different.
They always want to win!
But in their development years should that be our focus?
As parents and coaches, what is our focus and role when bringing up children?
And this is no different in youth football.
Whenever I watch my child play my focus is not to encourage him to take shortcuts to secure a victory but do what is necessary to help him learn how to solve problems in real situations.
I don’t want him to be reliant on me or the coach in the game, so I try to say as little as possible.
I remember a parent saying to me once “I believe a coach should be shouting at their players telling them what to do”.
His child was playing for the opposition and he wasn’t happy with the current manager.
“You see your child’s manager is very animated tells his players what to do, that’s what a good coach does”.
Now I know you might be thinking “Your child’s coach shouts at his players?” yes, he is very animated, and I admit it is one thing from our coach I would love for him to work on because there are other things he does very well but trust me it is difficult to find a grassroots club in the UK with a coach that does it all.
Anyway, in this case, I chose to say nothing as I quickly knew at that point anything I was to say would probably have little impact right there and then.
Trust me, telling your players/child what to do throughout the game isn’t helping them in fact you are doing the opposite.
How will they learn to make the right decisions if you are telling them what to do all the time?
If you are the parent, how do you know what your child’s coach has been working on in training? The instructions you are giving could be contradicting the coach!
Yes, your child will make mistakes and sometimes it will cost goals but with every failure, there are even bigger lessons to be learned from them.
Instead of dictating help them reflect and guide them to better future choices.
What can you do instead?
If you happen to coach a local youth football team then before the season begins you should hold a meeting with the parents where you explain the expectations from them and the players and have them sign a code of conduct that clearly states that giving instructions from the sidelines and criticizing players and referees is not allowed.
If a parent still doesn’t follow the system put in place, then you remind them what they have signed at the start of the season and if they are still making causing problems then I have asked parents to leave if they are not willing to change.
No matter how brilliant their child could be, having one person disrupting everything else can cause serious problems for the team so it’s best to try and nip it in the bud as early as possible.
Coaches Must Model Appropriate Behavior!
If you want your football parents to behave a certain way, then you as a coach must do the same also.
I can hear it now from some coaches “But that’s what coaches do how are we coaching if we don’t give instructions during the game”.
My response to this is if you are preparing your players properly in training before the game & after then you shouldn’t need to bark instructions throughout the game.
A great coach once told me “The match should be used as an assessment of what was previously taught”.
In school, you are taught by your teacher throughout the full term on the topic then at the end of the term, you are given an exam to test your application.
In the exam, your teacher isn’t standing over you instructing how to answer every question because obviously, this doesn’t show that the pupil is learning, the only thing it shows is that they can follow instructions.
Do You Really Need to Point Out Mistakes During Matches?
I know as a football parent and coach that it is sometimes difficult to hide how you feel during a match involving your players/child but pointing out every mistake during the game really doesn’t help them improve.
You will not only run the risk of embarrassing them in front of their teammates and other parents but also it can also be very distracting.
What is your main role if you are a coach? To support the development of the players!
What is your main role if you are a football parent? To support the development of your child!
Both are expected to do this in different ways but on this issue, the approach needs to unanimous.
I am sure in your life many of you have been shouted at from the sidelines or in some capacity, how did it make you feel? Do you feel it taught you how to play better or did you just become reliant on the information?
For me, any feedback can be done privately after the game, and even then, this should be handled carefully.
For coaches, try to first touch on the things that worked well, then mentioned what they could improve on but also allow moments for them to give their opinion on their performance to help them reflect on the game.
If you are a parent, many just recommend that you only say “did you enjoy the game” which is fine, but I want them to learn something this moment as well, here is my approach.
First, I will ask them a question to get them thinking about their performance such as “so, what did you think you did well today”? and wait for their response and discuss in a positive manner. Then I would ask “so is there anything that you think you could improve on”? and wait for their response and again have a constructive conversation about it.
I would finally end the conversation on “So taking everything into account, what 2 things do you want to work on for the next game”? and let them respond. All I have done is ask questions to help them reflect on their own performance which will allow them to learn from it more.
I have also helped them to get into the habit of setting achievable targets so that their focus is not on the result but on performance instead.
Great motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “for things to change you have to change” and this couldn’t be truer.
If youth football clubs want parents who work with them and not against them, then they must put a process in place that educates them on their way of thinking.
Football parents must also be willing to remain open-minded when they join the world of youth football and realize quickly that this game must be treated differently from the adult’s game.
In a nutshell, the game is about the PLAYERS! Nothing else! So, try to put your egos aside and think of their DEVELOPMENT FIRST!
If you would like to take this discussion further, please leave a comment below or even join our Football parent Facebook group helping parents navigate the crazy world of youth football!