Helpful or Harmful: The Effect

Within previous blogs “The Problem” and “Parent’s Expectations”, written under the Helpful or Harmful category which have been mainly focused upon the sporting influencer, that reference parents and the profound negativity surrounding sideline behavior. “The effect” blog will be centered around the participant(s) that continually have to deal with/ ignore negativity or frustration from the sideline and how it affects them. We’ve all witnessed an excessive parent on the sideline that continues to yell and/or instruct their child and sometimes the whole team. As the previous blog “Parents Expectations” explained some parent(s) tend to play through their son/daughter or posses a very competitive mindset towards youth sport. Regardless of the reason behind such an approach from parents, they should understand what effect this not only has on their son/daughter but everyone participating.



First and foremost, we acknowledge that parents only want what’s best for their child, but ask yourself “Who’s playing the game?” As sporting influencers, we need to create a positive learning environment. Constant yelling/instructing from the sideline can be cause for embarrassment for a participant.  The child may feel embarrassed in front of his/her teammates, coaches, opposing team, and other parents.  This can have far-reaching effects, both on and off the field. Do we think the child will want to return to that environment again? If uneducated or misguided parents are unaware of what and when to provide feedback to players, you have two options 1) Don’t yell 2) Ask your child what they want to hear from the sideline?  You’d be surprised with their response(s).

With constant sideline instructing, players become less creative and confident whilst playing the beautiful game that is meant to be fun and enjoyable. Why do we think this happens? A major factor, is players becoming anxious to receive the ball and afraid of making mistakes, as they can anticipate the immediate negative response from the sideline. If parents actually think that these players can participate in a sport without making a mistake, they’re setting themselves up for frustration and disappointment.  Making a mistake is a part of the sport and a key component in how players develop. We should be embracing mistakes. Isn’t that how we learn not only in sport but in life? Didn’t we learn how to walk by falling over? Allow the child to discover how to play, and positively encourage mistakes.

Relevant quote from Michael Jordan, that embraces failure:

“I’ve missed more than 900 shots in my career. I’ve lost more than 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning last shot and I missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I have succeeded!”

Michael Jordan.jpg

Have you ever instructed your child and/or team, yelling “Run”, “Get into Space”, “Pass”, “Dribble”, “Keep scoring and I’ll buy you anything” …the list could be endless. If you’ve done this, you’re not helping. We should empower our child to take ownership of their developmental process and enjoyment in sport. When athletes become dependent on external feedback, they do not learn to use appropriate sensory feedback characteristics so they could delay in skill development. Spectators and parents who consistently provide performance feedback to athletes may be, in fact, hindering their performance. A child can perceive their success in the sport in many different forms, not solely by wins and losses. Parents can aid this perceived success through positive reinforcement. Stop instructing and start encouraging. Do we want our son and/or daughter to become dependent on us during a soccer game? Let them play.

Making parents proud is something we all strive to accomplish, however continually yelling/instructing from the sideline, occasionally feedback that is opposite to the coach can cause confusion in a player’s mind whilst participating. Firstly, parent’s need realistic expectations of their son/daughter whilst participating and understanding success comes in different forms. Placing a child in a confusion situation should never happen, as the player doesn’t want to disappoint neither his parent or the coach. Are parent’s really going to jeopardize their relationship with the child, for the perceived success in soccer? Do you think a player will want to receive the ball if placed under such circumstances? Please allow the coach to guide and facilitate a player’s soccer education and enjoyment for the sport.

The sporting influencer(s) has an opportunity and a choice to reinforce positive or negative feedback and support their respective son and/or daughter. This element of social-support is heavily linked to the amount of enjoyment a child perceives for a particular sport. If the parent(s) continue being negative towards their child performances, he/she will naturally lose confidence and motivation to further participate and create higher anxiety towards the sports performance. It’s imperative that parents have an open-mindedness to learn and change their beliefs.

“What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform”  by Tim Elmore simply shows the kind of feedback we should provide young sporting participants.


Before Competition:                                       After Competition:

  • Have Fun                                                          Did you have fun?
  • Play Hard                                                          I’m proud of you
  • I love you                                                          I love you

Self-reflection is a simple yet effective strategy to identify and change one’s behavior especially within such a public environment as in youth soccer.  Nonetheless, naturally, this creates a defensive response for parents such as “You don’t know what’s best for my son/daughter” or “I’m only trying to help”. The sporting influencer should take ownership of their own behavior and allow the child to experience the sport and have fun.  Change belief is hard. I’ll end this with a provocative question “Are you ready to change for greater, good of your child?”

Parents with positive values and expectancies are more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior and provide support and encouragement. They can also be taught to talk with their children about their perceptions of and preferences for sideline behavior because the parent-child agreement influences that child’s sports experience. If the youth sports experience is to be the best it can be for all participants, not just the highly skilled ones, it is necessary that adults change their perspective and realign it to what the kids want (Educated Sports Parent.)

Thank you

The Sporting Influencer

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