The Problem with Parents Coaching from the Sidelines

This fall, the Big Man upstairs gave me the wonderful challenge of coaching soccer. I was recently introduced to the term used to describe such an “opportunity”: Voluntold.

Voluntold!  “Forcibly volunteered.”  Too funny.  And entirely accurate in my case.  

AYSO email:  Hey there, either you coach or 6 families (including your own) don’t get to play soccer this fall.

DK:  Thank you?

Turns out, it’s actually been great. Totally new challenge for me and an opportunity to practice what I preach: Enter a new sports world, with little to no experience, and put forth a great coaching effort. I played soccer through 8th grade, and have never coached the sport. But with two games remaining and practice #11 this afternoon, I can say this with proud confidence:

  1. I have given these boys a great practice experience.
  2. We have improved, drastically.
  3. We have smiled and laughed and competed… a lot!
  4. I have scoured Google, Youtube, the dude that coaches soccer living around the corner, my friends and co-workers, and any other resources for tips, strategies, and drills.

Could I have used the soccer version of Dugout Captain? You bet your shinguards I could have! Thankfully, that will be coming sometime in the fall of 2026 (to be honest, unless someone would like to purchase Dugout Captain and inject oodles of dough, soccer captain won’t be coming anytime soon 🙂

One of the interesting things that AYSO does (at least in our area) is “Silent Saturday.”  Here’s a cool article describing the concept.  There’s no talking allowed AT ALL this day, with the intended goal of allowing the kids to play… and play free! Something we advocate often here at Dugout Captain.

Silent Saturday kicked me in the pants, reminding me we have a guest article to share from Amber Rose, a Captain for several years, who works as an author and lifestyle blogger.  She volunteered (not voluntold) to write a piece for our community and I’ve been searching for the best time to do so. Without further ado, here is that article:

 

The Problem with Parents Coaching from the Sidelines

Article written for Dugoutcaptain.com, by Amber Eve (Twitter – @r_am_jones)

Every parent wants their child to succeed in everything they do.

There’s nothing wrong with being a supportive and proactive parent. But some will do absolutely anything just to see their child succeed. This is especially true for parents with kids in sports. While they simply want the best for their child, this can also lead them into thinking that coaching from the sideline helps.

A cross-sectional study published in the International Journal of Sport Management, Recreation & Tourism found that the overwhelming majority of coaches and referees confirm the negative impacts of sideline coaching. This spans from parents trying to coach from the sidelines to them yelling at coaches and calling out umpire/referee decisions.

While the urge to protect and root for your child is understandable, sideline coaching has no benefit to your kid, the team, and the sport. Here’s why:

You’re not the coach

It leads to confusion. USSF A Licensed coach Keith Whitmer explains that sideline coaching creates confusion —especially when parents yell instructions that contrast the coach. He refers to this type of coaching as “joysticking”, an approach that can obstruct the natural learning curve of kids learning sports. While instructions are essential in learning new skills, too many instructions from too many sources will deter progress.

Pressure hampers learning

Soccer Today notes how parents sitting on the sidelines can sometimes be very negative. Even the slightest negative talk from parents can cause anxiety and put undue pressure on kids. In line with this, Maryville University looked at the importance of a student’s mental wellbeing in relation to their performance. They found underlying connections between mental health and a student’s ability to absorb information. A stressed or anxious student is therefore more likely to make mistakes, which will lead to more negative emotions. You might think you’re helping them now, but the anxiety your behavior is causing may actually hamper them from building the skills they need to succeed both on the pitch and in other areas of their life.

It affects not just your child, but the entire game. Even if your child is unbothered, sideline coaching can directly impact the other kids as well. Telling the referees off or undermining the coach’s authority will negatively affect how kids take instructions.

What you can do

Be supportive. Encouragement comes in many forms. Although it might feel counterintuitive, refraining from coaching on the sidelines encourages independence. When they see you enjoying the game, kids feel trusted. Give your child room to step forward and claim ownership of their sport.

Focus on character development. While the coach zeroes in on the technical knowledge they need to do well, parents should concentrate in instilling good sportsmanship in their children. Instead of talking about their swing, ask about how they feel when losing or getting benched. Help them process their own wins and losses in every aspect of the game. This way, you can ensure that they take away the best lessons they can from playing sports.

Make sure they’re having fun. Everyone from Sunday leaguers to MLB hall-of-famers agree that what they miss most about the sport is the time they spent bantering with teammates in the dugout. Let the coaches worry about the numbers and just focus on letting your child have a good time,

Article written for dugoutcaptain.com

By Amber Eve

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