Helpful or Harmful: The Problem

 “Sports parents are more intense and push their kids more now than ever before,” saysBrooke de Lench, executive director of MomsTEAM Institute and author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers In Youth Sports.

Having coached in Wales, United Kingdom (UK) for many years, I have experience coaching diverse abilities and many age-ranges from U6 to Men’s University soccer. Since my arrival to the United States (US) the sideline behavior of parents have become more evident, as my personal exposure to youth soccer and excessive parental involvement increases. I’m fully aware that sideline behavior isn’t an issue that solely exists in the US. Such issues according to extensive research is identified as world-wide. As the previous blog (SportingInfluencer: Helpful or Harmful:Introduction) stated such negative approach adopted by parent(s) has a detrimental effect on youth player(s) participating in soccer.  * Note: “Parent(s) will be defined in the blog as any supportive network that observes any soccer activity*

The aim of this blog is to clearly highlight the continuation of over parental involvement in sport with REAL examples. A key statement to remember is that “Parents” have been highlighted as a major influence in a child’s enjoyment and involvement in sport. Yet, we continue to hear such negative stories of verbal and physical abuse from the sideline towards players, coaches and umpires (Referee’s). With such approach and outlook towards youth sports, it’s a growing concern that the negativity from youth sports parents will dramatically influence their child’s continuing involvement within a selected sport (short-term & long-term). Being such a sporting influencer, parents need to find an appropriate balance between allowing a child to enjoy, participate and learn the sport and family relationships.

Below are a few examples of what I’ve heard and witnessed from the sidelines. I expect you all have heard and witnessed far more excessive verbal and/or physical abuse from the sideline aimed at players (both teams), opposition parents, referee’s and coaches:


  • “I turned up to see you play” comment towards their own son/daughter (Insinuating a child’s poor performance, and a parents’ waste of time)
  • “I don’t know what you lot doing out on the field, not good enough” comment made by a parent towards the whole team.
  • Parents fighting with an opposition team, accusing them of cheating.
  • Parents shouting at the coach “It’s your fault we lost today’s game”
  • Shouting and cursing at the Referee, as he fails to call fouls.
  • Blaming the goalkeeper (GK) for letting in a goal – “YOU SHOULD’VE SAVED IT!!”
  • Yelling at the most developed player in the team – “YOU MUST SCORE!!”
  • Dictating players decision-making from the sides – “PASS NOW!!! SHOOT!!!” Then blaming them for a mistake.


The list of examples could be endless, yet we can all relate to them from our own personal experiences or have witnessed it. We must ask ourselves, what impact are these comments/actions are having on these individuals participating within the sport? Short term? Long term?

The negativity demonstrated by sideline parents relates to parent(s) attempting to play and compete through the eyes of their respective son and/or daughter and, often or not, the head coach. This approach and behavior reflects upon over-emphasized winning at all costs mentality, reaching perfection in terms of ability and performance (Unattainable target) and comparing themselves (Parent v youth player) to their son and/or daughter i.e “I was better at his/her age” . Research by Frankl (2004) highlighted the excessive negative behavior by parents has such a detrimental effect on children’s participation and enjoyment within a particular sport.  Additionally, such inexcusable behavior was on the increase.

It’s been identified and proposed by (Gould et al.) that one of the key strategies to decrease negative sideline behavior is for an increased amount of ongoing parental education, also the need for more research to be conducted surrounding the effect of negative sporting influencers in sport on those participating.

 “It’s the introduction of adult values into kids’ games, When I grew up, it was children competing against children. Now, more oftenthan not, it’s adults competing against other adults through their children.” – John O’Sullivan Changing The Game Project

 “Belief change is hard”

Thank you

The Sporting Influencer

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Côté, J. (1999). The influence of the family in the development of talent in sport. Sport Psychologist, 13, 395-417.Retrieved from:

Gould, D., Lauer, L., Rolo, C., Jannes, C., & Pennisi, N. (2006). Understanding the role parentsplay in tennis success: a national survey of junior tennis coaches. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40, 632-636. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2005.024927

Gould, D., & Horn, T. (1984). Participation motivation in young athletes. In J. M. Silva & R. S. Weinberg (Eds.), Psychological foundations of sport (pp. 359-370). Champaign. IL: Human Kinetics

Ruddy, Z, E. (2014). Soccer Moms, Hockey Dads: Crazy Sideline Stories