Sideline Etiquette

When playing in a game, mini-roos and junior football players’ minds are focused on making split-second decisions as they maneuver around and survey the field.

Every once in a while, however, a player’s attention may be drawn to his or her hyper parent yelling instructions or making a scene from the sideline. While parents’ actions may simply be the result of wanting the best for their child, their behaviour can have a negative effect on their young athlete’s enjoyment of the game.

Here are six things to keep in mind when attending your child's game...

1. Avoid ‘coaching’ from the sideline while watching your child’s game
A common problem in junior football is the impulse parents have to shout instructions to their young player from the sideline. It’s especially difficult for a child because he or she has a tendency to refer to what a parent says, which often conflicts with the instruction from the coach. Parents should imagine being in a room and having multiple people yelling instructions at them in order to see the confusion it could cause a child.

If you find yourself instructing your child or players on your team, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I the coach?

  • Do I know that what I am saying is the same as what the coach has instructed?

  • Is my behaviour aggressive?

  • Am I acting as a role model?

2. Do not criticize the referee
This is an epidemic, and spectators should realize that referees are people and will make mistakes — even those officiating at the highest levels of play. When parents go after a referee for what they perceive as a mistake, it begins to make the game about the adults rather than the kids. Equally most referees at Junior or Mini-Roos level are children or parents themselves. They are volunteers or people doing the job for the love of the game or to help clubs and kids alike.

If you find yourself yelling at the referee, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this the right thing to do? Am I am being aggressive?

  • Is this the behaviour I want the kids to imitate?

  • Would this behaviour be acceptable in my workplace, place of worship, social gathering or other significant event?

  • How would I feel if I were the referee and I was being yelled at by spectators at a child’s football game?

3. Focus on the benefits of the game rather than the score
Far too often parents worry about the numbers formed by illuminated lights on a scoreboard rather than the experience their child has while playing youth sports. Parents are naturally from an older generation in which there was a larger focus on the result of a game. While it’s natural for everyone to want to win, parents need to keep focus on the larger picture.

If you find yourself focusing on the score, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I ask my son or daughter if they enjoyed the game?

  • Is it healthy for my kids if they see me only focusing on the result?

  • How will my focus on the score affect my child’s mentality handling setbacks or losses?

4. Think when interacting with spectators, players or coaches
Other spectators and the coaches are their for their own kids as well. Respectful behaviour should be the norm and welcoming guests to the club is the best example of how we should portray ourselves to our kids. Often interactions with spectators is overwhelmingly positive. In every circumstance, adults should be able to go and enjoy their child’s experience without having any confrontation. Parents not only represent the club, they also represent their child. If you see behaviour from the opposing team or parents that you do not agree with speak to your team manager or the game marshalls.

If you find yourself getting involved with opposing teams or spectators that is not respectful think to yourself:

  • What would my child think if he or she saw me acting the way I am right now?

  • Is this so important that I need to do this?

  • Would my child be proud of me if I act aggressively or yell at others over a child’s football game?

5. Don’t stress out over the game
Do you find yourself pacing up and down the sideline — anxiously following the action as it unfolds on the field? Stop it. Breathe. The game is only a game and you are there to support your child. Don’t worry about the rest of it. Some parents just give themselves aneurysms pacing up and down the line. Keep perspective. There are more important things.

If you find yourself stressing out, take that breath and think:

  • Just calm down. Enjoy it. Stop being so attached to it. It’s not your game

  • Remember not to base your enjoyment or happiness on what is going on out there.

  • Look at your child. Is he or she having fun? Is he active? Is he enjoying the social nature of the game? Is he getting as much out of this experience as he can?

6. Save issues with the coach for the next day
Maybe you don’t agree with how much your child played in a game or another decision the coach made during the match. It’s important to take some time to think about it rather than confronting the coach in front of your child and the team. Directly after the game, the parents should not approach the coach. Conversations can be emotionally charged. Coaches and parents alike may not express themselves appropriately. Let that conversation happen the next time you can speak to the coach.

If you find yourself approaching the coach after the game think:

  • Is this the right approach?

  • Maybe I should wait and talk to the coach tomorrow by by phone or email or see them before the next training session.