Sideline coaching: why parents must stop!
Please just stop coaching your kid from the sideline. Your kid has a coach and it isn’t you. (If it is you, you’re in the dugout or on the bench or at first or third base, and by all means, carry on!)
Do not shout advice to your kid. During the middle of a play is not the time for instruction. If he needs instruction, he will get it from his coach. You are undermining the coach by telling your kid what to do and you are no doubt distracting and embarrassing your child. That is, if he can even hear you. Otherwise, you are just embarrassing yourself in front of the other parents and fans. STFU already. This is why I have to leave the stands sometimes and go watch the game from behind center field (or if it’s hockey, from center ice).
Recently while standing behind the outfield fence, I ran into another coach whose team was playing the next game. He asked me who was playing, what was the score, and so on. I told him I wasn’t 100% sure about the score because I had to walk away; I couldn’t stand listening to the sideline coaches. He agreed. He commented, “What’s worse is when every time the kid is at bat, he looks to the sidelines for his parents’ approval, rather than to the coach.” There it is people, right from a coach’s mouth.
I agreed.Please just stop coaching your kid from the sideline. Your kid has a coach and it isn’t you. Click To Tweet
Imparting your “expert” advice from the sideline
Ideally, kids learn to tune out what is happening beyond the playing field, but I pity the kid who does hear you.
Like this pitcher, whose dad spent every inning his son pitched behind the backstop, coaching him on every throw. “Throw strikes!” Uhm, no shit. That’s what every pitcher wants to do. Is that helpful? Don’t you think your kid has a big enough job focusing on the catcher’s mitt without you distracting him?
Do you think the umpire likes you standing behind him and commenting on every call?
No, I am 100% certain that no one wants to hear you. Not your kid, not the umpire, and not the fans around you.
And never, ever shout advice to my kid! There was once a dad who told my son to run from third base and he got thrown out at home. Dude, that is so not your job. It’s the 3rd base coaches job to tell the kid to hold or go for it.
- Kids can’t assimilate advice from multiple sources during a game.
- Your advice might be wrong.
- Even if your advice isn’t technically wrong, if it differs from what the coach or official says, it is wrong.
And another thing, don’t heckle my kid. I remember a dad shouting things at one of my boys at first base after he made a play that thwarted his son’s hit. My son was maybe 10 and doing his best to hold back tears (while continuing to rock first base). I asked our coach to intervene, which he did immediately upon taking up his position as first base coach during the next half-inning. (If he hadn’t, I would have.) I still see this dad around the fields and arenas and am disgusted every time. My son has grown into a far bigger man than this guy (figuratively and literally, since this guy is maybe 5’ 8” and no doubt has small-man syndrome, and my son, a gentle giant, is 6’ 4”).
When your kids are little, like 4 to 6, and just starting out in soccer or t-ball, they want you to watch them. They might need you nearby. (I coached t-ball and remember a kid who had separation anxiety if he couldn’t see one of his parents at all times.) They’re often very conscious of everything you do along with say on the sidelines. Some kids might complain when their parents socialize too much and don’t pay attention to the game. One of my boys wanted me to come to his basketball practices and baseball tryouts up until age 8 or 10, I forget. I came, I watched, I cheered, and I clapped. But I did not offer advice.
I don’t even go to all of my older boys’ games anymore. First of all, I can’t because there is only one of me and three of them. Second, one of them informed me that they like going to basketball just the two of them (my oldest can now drive). Third, their motivation for playing sports is to have fun and be with their friends (My oldest played on a co-ed soccer team last winter for fun). They no longer need validation from their parents. They are not super-competitive and not on the track to play college sports unless it’s a club or intramural team.
A kid’s perception of himself comes from the responses of parents and coaches. Even only a few remarks from the sidelines can ascertain whether a kid’s experience is positive or negative. This is why it’s essential for coaches and parents to understand how to provide feedback and encouragement. This means saying things like “Good play,” or “good try,” or “nice idea,” i.e., concentrate on the effort not the failure or success.
Let the coach do the debriefing during the game. Save your play-by-play recap for the car ride home (if your child is receptive). There are many rides home where I just let my son vent and swear and say whatever he wants. Occasionally he starts immediately after the fist-bumping but I tell him save it for the ride. He gets a time limit to be pissy and then we discuss – if he is receptive. IF.
Additionally, a kid’s capability to judge what he does enhances with age and he understands when you are screaming false praise. Kids appreciate sincere, constructive comments that demonstrate that you know what is going on, along with that you are paying attention. If your kid’s team is losing or he made an error, do not storm off the field in disgust. Yes, I knew a dad who did that many baseball seasons ago and I always felt bad for his son and embarrassed for his wife.
Keeping a respectful distance
I told my son that I had to walk away during a game recently because I couldn’t stand sitting next to some of the parents yelling at their kids. “I was still watching from behind the fence in center field.”
He said, “I didn’t even notice.”