Confession time: I am a shouty soccer mum.
Not in an abusive way, mind you. Just in a loud, possibly over-enthusiastic, way.
For someone who is very open, extroverted and ridiculously over-invested in their children, it can be really hard to keep quiet when you are caught up in the excitement of the game.
My 9yo son has been through a fair bit of stuff in the last couple of years so it is great seeing him on the soccer field, trying his hardest and doing well. I love to cheer him and his team mates on.
But I’m the first to admit my encouragement can be a little over zealous at times.
This really hit home after a four-match soccer carnival recently when I came home feeling a bit hoarse. Had I really done that much “encouraging”?
So, I asked my little guy how he felt about mum yelling from the sidelines.
Initially he just shrugged, “I don’t really hear you.”
I found this pretty hard to be believe since I’m pretty sure teams in neighbouring suburbs think I’m cheering for them. So I pressed a little further and got a surprising response.
“Well… sometimes I hear you. You say things like “Tackle him!” or one game you were saying “Kick it that way!” but the coach was saying to kick it the other way.”
Bad mum moment right there.
The last thing I want to do is confuse my kid. Or contradict the coach, who I have immense respect for. I want my son to do well at soccer, but most of all I want him to have fun.
Unfortunately, not all parents have such well-meaning intentions. Some people take kids’ sports far too seriously, with instances of verbal and physical violence against umpires (even juniors!), opposing team parents and even kids themselves!
In fact, the NSW Office of Sport have gone so far as to implement a campaign called Shoosh 4 Kids, empowering game officials to “shoosh” spectators if their sideline behaviour isn’t positive. It’s all about “cheering not jeering”.
Shoosh 4 Kids, and a similar campaign called Silent Saturday, aim to address the fallout from poor sideline behaviour. The impact can include abuse of officials, poor volunteer retention rates and low player participation rates due to dropouts.
Shoosh 4 Kids has 10 tips for adults at kids sport:
- Keep it fun. Don’t take it too seriously. It’s not the world titles.
- Be enthusiastic but don’t scream and shout instructions from the sideline.
- Emphasise trying hard not winning.
- Cheer and acknowledge good plays by all players.
- Accept decisions by officials. They are human and can make mistakes.
- Let the coaches do the coaching.
- Always remember, volunteers run kids’ sport.
- Understand, uphold and support your club’s code of conduct.
- Allow your child to play for themselves. Let kids make the decisions on and off the field.
- Think before you speak. Your words may harm others.
When I read this list I had a few more “Oh-Oh” moments.
Now, I’m never abusive and I always cheer for good plays, no matter the kid – even if it is the opposing team. However, items 2, 6 & 9 I am well and truly guilty of.
I was going to ask my son’s coach about his feelings on parental sideline behaviour but he’s far too polite to tell me the truth.
So I asked another dad I know who coaches under 10’s what he thinks about shouty parents and if he agreed with something like Shoosh 4 Kids. Here’s what he had to say:
“I honestly think it’s great that parents are free to support their child and their child’s team. But…. from my point of view, the parents should support all the kids on the team not just their own child. And as long as the parents are supporting the style of play and the decisions the coach makes, then the cheering and shouting can be great thing.
The Shoosh 4 Kids campaign looks good. Anything that can encourage positive support from the sidelines can only be a good thing.”
After all this reflection, I acknowledge I definitely need to tone down my sideline behaviour. From now on my focus will be on keeping it fun for my son and I’ll try hard to keep my sideline-coaching comments to myself!
Are you a shouty soccer mum or dad? What do you think of the Shoosh 4 Kids/Silent Saturday campaigns?