Would you turn up for something if you knew you were going to be shouted at for the duration? Probably not. Would you relish going to work if your boss stood over you bellowing instructions constantly? Not a chance. While pushy parents in sport rightly take a lot of the flak when it comes to sideline screaming, coaches can often be guilty of it too – and is it right that shouty coaches don’t seem to be policed in the same way parents are?
In Hampshire, in early October 2018, shouting from the touchlines was banned in a ‘silent weekend‘ of grassroots football matches. As part of an FA initiative, parents cheering on their kids were told to remain completely silent and were forbidden from haranguing the referee during matches. Intriguingly, managers were also told to not ‘coach players during play’.
Hampshire FA’s thinking was to “create a positive and pressure-free environment in which children can enjoy football and learn to love and develop in the game”. When it’s put like that, it seems glaringly obvious, doesn’t it? Put simply, kids take shouting to heart, and no coach should do it. The issue, of course, is not confined to football and the same principles apply across any junior team sport.
While credit should be given to the Hampshire FA for trying something, perhaps, ultimately, complete silence isn’t the answer. Football, as well as other team sports such as hockey, is combative, emotional and hectic, and will always naturally elicit vocal responses from those on the sidelines. But in kids’ sport it must come in the form of encouragement and support – not instruction or criticism.
COACHES COACHED TO NOT SHOUT
FA coaching courses now incorporate this message. Delegates are asked to sit down and write a paragraph with their weak hand, while a group of coaches shout at them throughout the process. “HURRY UP!”, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”, “WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT?!”, etc. Unanimously, budding coaches report extremely negative reactions. It doesn’t encourage them, it doesn’t help them, and it makes them feel bad. If it’s doing that to adults, one can only imagine how children feel.
So why do some coaches feel it acceptable to scream ‘advice’? When coaches shout from the sidelines they’re not just invading what is essentially their playtime, they’re preventing children from learning in a natural manner. The shouting is detrimental to the children’s development as players and at worst can turn them off the sport entirely.
YELLING AT KIDS WILL SEE THEM WALK AWAY FROM SPORT
A KUDOS member of staff has first-hand and recent experience. His son, playing out of position for his under 10s football team, was repeatedly shouted at by the coach – shouting at him to make runs, where to make the runs, screaming at him to get back, constantly and noisily putting him under pressure, and even shouting “WHAT ARE YOU DOING STANDING STILL? HAVE YOU COME FOR A GAME OF FOOTBALL OR JUST TO STAND STILL?”
In a game of rolling substitutions, the increasingly exasperated and visibly upset boy was later asked if he wanted to go back on and – guess what – he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to go back on because he didn’t fancy being relentlessly shouted at again – and who can blame him?
It was on the journey home that the nine year old told his Dad he didn’t want to play any more, at all. He wanted to quit, and Dad, disgusted with the coach, was hardly in a position to disagree with him. And so that is that – for now at the very least, the boy’s footballing exploits are over, aged just nine. Other boys in the squad, emboldened by their mate’s decision to quit, have also come forward to say they too are fed up of the shouting and would also like to quit. It is a depressing state of affairs that is certainly not isolated.
COACHES MUST ALLOW KIDS TO MAKE MISTAKES – IT DOES NOT REFLECT ON YOU
Allowing children to make mistakes on their own, without the threat of immediate backlash from a coach (or parent), is one of the critical elements to any young players’ growth in their sport.
In a 2015 article in The Guardian, Spurs and England midfielder Eric Dier spoke about his experience at Sporting Lisbon’s academy in Portugal.
It’s a very relaxed approach at Sporting in terms of football. They pride themselves on bringing you up as a polite and respectful person. They would never get angry with you if you missed a pass but they would do if you were disrespectful to someone. There was no shouting. I hear a lot that that is the case in England.
A good player for them was someone who could understand when they made a mistake and correct it for themselves. When I first came to England to play I saw coaches having a go at players when they made mistakes and they would literally be talking them through the game.
In Portugal the coach would sit on the bench and not say a word. We’d just play. It was a matter of us making mistakes and learning from them by ourselves. You understand the game a lot better that way. For me, the sign of a bad player is someone who makes the same mistake twice. eric dier
Any manager or coach of a kids’ team wants to win – that’s obvious. But too many coaches want to bask in the reflective glory of winning matches and trophies, taking defeat badly, even personally and as a dent to their ego – when the primary objective should be simply to enhance kids’ enjoyment of sport and their development in it.
If the goal really is player development and happiness, then there is no real room for coaches who stand on the sidelines shouting constant instructions. Coaches need to understand they lose control of the match the second the whistle is blown, and any hopes that the game is played exactly how the coach wants it to be played should be forgotten. Of course, in-game changes and tactical decisions can be made, but attempting to play the game through the players on the pitch should be discouraged. Sooner or later the voice in the player’s head ceases to be their own, and they will see others as the reason they are not succeeding, rather than looking internally and finding their own solutions. Football, netball, hockey etc are thinking games, and if the constant commotion on the field is exacerbated by an overly excited coach (or parent), the player’s ability to think clearly will be negatively affected.
Very few adults can remember anything about that Cup semi-final when they were 12, but everyone remembers their coach(es) when they first started playing for a team as a child. Be the coach that is remembered fondly.
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