WWFC and the Pushy Parent

posted Oct 25, 2013, 1:58 AM by Wheathampstead Wanderers

Much is being made at the moment within the world of football of SAF’s autobiography, FA Commissions and whether Messi, Ronaldo or indeed Ibrahimovic will set the World Cup alight next year in Brazil, which thankfully England will now play a part in. However, the recently outspoken Gary Lineker has written an excellent  article in the NewStatesman that grabbed my attention and goes to the heart of one of the biggest challenges we face at the grassroots level and can be read at the following link:  http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/10/pushy-parents-screaming-abuse-sidelines-are-killing-their-kids-love-football


Yes, the pushy parent. We’ve all seen them. We all know who they are. In the main we all stand back and let it go on. But does this actually help?


The pushy parent clearly has his or her heart in the right place and just wants their child to give their best. Unfortunately as we should all know through many years of being on this planet it is impossible to be at your best at everything every single second of the day and many of these times we simply have no reason why this happens. We’ve all been there trying to do our best and for no reason known to man it all goes ‘pear-shaped’. So let’s understand young kids that are still learning the game and generally prone to more errors are only going to be victims here more often.


The last thing they want is their mum or dad bailing them out from the touchlines, “Come on Johnny, your great granny who can’t walk could do better with her eyes shut…”. How is that kind of comment ever going to help young Johnny??


It is a proven fact that kids thrive on positivity and encouragement and the FA have done studies that evidence this. It is also proven that if young players have no fear of trying out new techniques and skills their development will accelerate. Knowing they can try a trick or try kicking with their ‘weaker’ foot and potentially make a mistake without fellow players, coaches and parents shouting at them afterwards will inspire confidence. It will also stop this country producing robotic-type players that have stalled the game at a higher level and instead see more technically advanced players coming through.


It is one of our jobs as coaches to completely take away this fear. We all see players show wonderful technique in training but then struggle when it comes down to matchday. The human brain is a right bugger here but we can help train it to become more confident and with mini-soccer teams now playing in unpublished leagues all emphasis should be taken away from results and placed on the longer-term development of the players which should provide the right environment for this to flourish.


We can also help this by communicating with our parents at the start of the season and regularly through the season. WWFC has a Code of Conduct that players and parents all sign into. I also used to send a separate Code of Conduct out to the parents of the team I coached at the start of every season explaining what I expected. Certainly no coaching from the sidelines and only positive encouragement, to both teams.


We will always come up against teams where the parents are far more aggressive and we must learn to ignore these. In these circumstances the Match Delegate should speak to their counterpart and if there is no improvement they should then speak to the referee.


The issue over the pushy parent is a subject that can spring eternal debate and I like the suggestion within Lineker’s article that some academies insist on parents being quiet and only clapping. Maybe this is something you could look to introduce with the prior agreement of the opposition in a game in the not too distant future. If you do I would be really interested to hear how you felt it either helped or hindered the players.


The other thing we all know is that the kids do feel pressure when playing and most of that is due to the expectation levied on them from their parents clearly wanting the best but only giving the tools to prohibit this development. Again this is where us coaches come in and have to communicate effectively with the parents and talk through our longer-term development plans and how they too can play a key part in this.


So let’s all think about how we can take the fear away from our players, how we can all help accelerate their development. Here are some suggestions among many more examples I’m sure you can all give me:

·         Take on the academy example where parents can only clap and not cheer/ shout…

·         Talk to your players alone about the support from the touchline and give weekly feedback via e-mail to parents on this – maybe give them a mark out of 10!!

·         Tell your parents to bring along picnic/ garden chairs and watch the match sat down so now they see the game at the same level as most of the players – this may completely change the whole context of how they view the game.

·         Empower your matchday delegate to ensure the sidelines are a positive environment.

·         Don’t be afraid to speak to any pushy parents. Remember you’ll have the full support of the WWFC Committee behind you in dealing with such issues.

·         As a coach go through a whole game (i.e. before, during and after) without talking to the players about the result. Put the whole emphasis on enjoyment and working on certain techniques you’ve been focusing on.

·         During game time be a passive coach. Don’t bark out orders from the touchline. Let the kids develop through their own trial + error.

·         Make sure that during the course of any training session or any matchday you give at least one piece of positive feedback to every single player and maybe focus this on when they tried something different which on this occasion didn’t come off.


I could go on for ages on this topic but if we can make this work then the future for the game is only going to be brighter. From my regular visits to Butterfield Road I’ve seen many fantastic players across all age groups and little things like the above will ensure that not only do they thrive but also that all the other players develop faster and suddenly become great players as well.


Until next time have a fun weekend and make sure you all enjoy your games.