Soccer Parents Should Sign Good Behavior Contract
Behavior at youth soccer matches is the subject of an ongoing debate - and I'm talking about the parents, not the kids. It generally comes down to the referees and the coaches to self-police the more demonstrative moms and dads on the sidelines.
It's a little easier in AYSO when volunteers are giving their time to offer children the opportunity to play soccer at what is often a pretty elementary level. It's all about fun, as it should be, although some parents still just can't help themselves.
In the more compeditive club teams, there is more pressure on the teams to perform because parents want value for money. They are spending their hard earned money on their son or daughter's sport and they want to see a return in either results or individual performances.
The perspective we very rarely get in this debate is that of the players themselves. Many are embarrassed, upset - and sometimes downright traumatized - by what is being said on the sidelines.
I was struck this week by a letter reprinted by US Youth Soccer by a young lady called Megan in Kentucky who not only summed up the problem very lucidly, she also came up with a solution to make it mandatory for all parents to sign a contract at the start of every season pledging to behave appropriately.
Here's the letter. I couldn't put it any better:
Dear Mr. McIver:
As a current soccer player participating on the U15 LFC Girl’s Premier team, I want to thank you for your dedication and commitment to youth soccer in the state.
During my nine years of experience, I have noticed numerous parents on the sidelines who do not always act as a role model for their child when it comes to sportsmanship. I believe it is a parent’s responsibility to instill in their child the importance of good sportsmanship and offset the “win at all costs” philosophy. To encourage parents to act responsibly, I would like to see the KYSA leadership team consider having parents sign a contract before each season begins.
Soccer is a team sport and parents need to understand that and encourage their child to be a team player. There have been too many times when a parent only wants his or her child to succeed or be the best, which does not support a team environment. As an example, I have seen where a parent will pay their child for every goal they score. This encourages the child to try and only score goals, as opposed to passing to another player that may have a better shot at making a goal. While scoring goals is certainly important, playing defensively to ensure the other team does not is just as important. No position on the soccer field is more important than another. If parents are reminded of this in the contract, they can help their child actively participate in a cooperative and coordinated effort on the part of the team working together towards their common goal.
The sport of soccer is naturally competitive so parents can tend to get a bit high strung and say or yell things on the sidelines that are not appropriate. For example, there are times when a parent may not agree with the call a referee has made, and will berate and yell at that referee to the point he or she is asked to leave the sidelines. Parents must remember to demonstrate respect for coaches, players and referees and never openly berate, criticize, tease or demean any one involved in the game. As a player, I can assure you that if a parent says something on the sidelines, we do hear it on the field. Children do learn from their behavior, so it is important they set a positive example.
In addition, parents need to be humble, trust the coach and admit that the way they think a child should play or a coach should teach is not the only way a child can learn. Each year I have played, there are always parents who seem to not support the team because they spend the entire game instructing the players from the sidelines. This confuses the players and really undermines the efforts of the coaches. Parents need to be reminded that they should avoid confusion when cheering on the sidelines. Including some examples of what parents should and should not say in a contract will encourage positive behavior. Hearing positive encouragement is always more motivating to me than being told to “shoot” or “pass it” when I am playing.
These are just a few of the areas that could be addressed in a sportsmanship contract. I do not think parents intentionally demonstrate behavior that is not sportsman like. If they are required to review what their role is for the soccer season, and then sign an agreement, it will serve as a friendly reminder what their responsibility is as a parent of a player. In addition, if you receive complaints regarding a particular parent’s behavior, you have documentation that the parent agreed to behave according to the sportsmanship guidelines and take action if he or she continues behaving inappropriately. I have put together a draft of this contract and would appreciate the opportunity to share it with you. I truly believe this will encourage positive support on the sidelines from parents both during games and at practices.
If players receive positive encouragement and are taught sportsmanship at a young age, they will be able to model that behavior as a player or observer today and in the future. I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you soon.