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Time for parents and coaches to keep quiet while the children play.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Thursday, September 14, 1999) -- The 200-team Northern Ohio Girls Soccer League is labeling October 3 as "Silent Sunday," where the only sounds should be those coming from the field -- from the players and the referee.

What a terrific concept!

The idea comes in response to loud and occasionally obnoxious behavior from parents and coaches during games. Parents yell out "instructions" to their children, as do coaches, frequently at odds with each other. In addition, they sometimes verbally harass referees.

"No wonder the kids were getting confused," said Al Soper, president of the league for girls ages 8-14. "We're just trying to put a touch of reality into the situation; after all, these are just kids' games."

Soper, an executive with an industrial pump company in Cleveland, said there is nothing wrong with parents "cheering for their children," but many do not limit themselves to this. He said the idea for "Silent Sunday" crystallized during a tournament in August, "where the noise from the younger age groups was just unbelievable."

Northern Ohio is by no means unique; similar situations can be found on most any youth soccer field in the United States:

  • Adults yelling for their child to "kick the ball" when maintaining possession or, pause, even dribbling, might be the better option.
  • Adults screaming for an offside call when none is warranted.
  • Adults imploring their child to "shoot, shoot" when passing the ball to a more open teammate closer to the goal might be the better choice.

And on and on and on .. . Most adults are supportive of their children, etc., and it's fine they turn out at the games -- but they know little about soccer. We're not advocating they keep entirely quiet, but that they limit their vocal chords to cheering and encouraging the offspring and teammates. Keep a lid on the advice - and on criticism of the referee and the opposing team.

As far as coaches are concerned, they run the gamut. Some give instructions nonstop, which doesn't make them brilliant. Some say nothing, which doesn't prove they are incompetent. Some concentrate on the referees, which is a likely reason for perennial shortages of officials for youth matches.

Others are tied up with parents complaining on the sidelines about "Junior" not getting enough playing time, or not being in the right position.

We favor a minimum of talking during the matches. Let the children concentrate on playing and developing their own individuality, within certain team-oriented boundaries -- rather than having to contend with the constant oral barrage from parents and coaches.

Coaches in general -- where amateur parents or older players or paid professionals -- should save the advice for before the game, halftime, after the game, and practices. If they've done their job during the week leading up to the match, the children shouldn't need much more coaching during the actual competition.

Adults, sit back and enjoy. Coaches, take notes and enjoy. Don't try to emulate football and basketball coaches. Children, play and enjoy.

The United States Soccer Federation should monitor October 3 in Northern Ohio -- and ask the children afterwards their thoughts. And who knows? The quality of play may be better.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.

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