I have been between the lines of a soccer field, as a player for many years on many levels, and as a coach for many years on many levels. For the first time, I take my seat on the sidelines with the parents watching my child play soccer. I am not in charge, and I am not playing—purely a spectator at my favorite sport now watching my son play. I immediately felt out of place and uncomfortable as I prepared myself as to what I was about to witness, not on the field but on my left and right. For years I have been in coaching education teaching coaches how to handle parents. Always have a team meeting, let them understand the role of a parent, remind them of their responsibilities to their child, how to keep them positive on what they should say during the games, and the Golden Rule: Do not yell at other kids! Yeah all of those rules were broken.
Here, I was somewhat obligated to be closer to our families since we shared the same uniform. I thought to myself, well here we go. I hardly know these people. They don’t know I am a professional coach. I am incognito and I will just sit back and enjoy the game. After 3-4 minutes, I was certain we were not watching the same game. I spent more time navigating the sea of parental nonsense with disarray than I did watching the game. No, that is not a foul! No he should pass not dribble. Yes, that actually was a foul. He shouldn’t run over there...that is NOT a card, wow okay they do not give red cards out at 7. I was exhausted from listening to the parents, I was disappointed that the sidelines have not gotten better in the last 20 years since I started coaching the E, F, G coaching licenses when I was 19 years old---sadly they have gotten worse.
My message to you the parent of the soccer player is this: The game moves fast, and there is a lot to understand as it is being played, and the kids are young. They actually know more of what they are doing than you think because you take them to rehearsal 2 times a week also known as practice. Please only encourage your son or daughter with words that may motivate them. Feel free to be disappointed if they didn’t play well, and praise them when they do, but please leave your coaching tips, instructions or any opinions to yourself. There were so many times the parents were inappropriate and well ignorant. One boy on our team was fouled in the box and a penalty kick was awarded. A different boy on our team took the PK, while the parent of the boy that was fouled had a gigantic adult tantrum on the sideline because his son was not taking the kick, yet his teammate was. Literally this man was irate. This is the kind of behavior that is NOT okay. We all see the game through a different camera, and yelling your movie over someone else’s is a distraction. Let the coach be the director.
Kids don’t want to disappoint coaches or parents. Help educate them by watching soccer on TV or in person. Work rate, competitiveness, and desire are necessary attributes a player needs along with the other components of the game. If your child is not competing or lacks effort, sure, fire away, but when it comes to position and responsibilities on the field—leave that information for the player to work through and the coach will respond…that is what you are paying them for!
Benatar holds a U.S.S.F. National “A” Coaching License and is a state-level course instructor. She has coaching experience on the club, college, and national levels. With 20 years of experience coaching club soccer, she has also been a national team training coach at the US Soccer’s Dallas Training Center since 2013. She has coached at the college level at both North Texas and Texas Woman's University. A graduate of Richardson (Tex.) High School, Benatar played college soccer for two seasons at the University of Arkansas before transferring to North Texas in 1996. She received her undergraduate degree in kinesiology from North Texas in 1999 and her master’s degree in kinesiology in May 2002. She and her husband, Will, have a daughter Gabrielle, and two sons, Fletcher and Phillip.