Dear parents, please don’t coach from the sidelines

I put this together in response to a conversation on Twitter, which asked ‘Do parents have the right to coach their kids from the sidelines’. The argument proved too difficult for me to answer in 140 characters, so I ended up here🙂

Answering the question ‘do parents have the right’ is a difficult one. What I can say though is that I 100% believe that it is best for the kids if they only have one set of instructions. The likelihood of a set of parents reinforcing a coaches ideas with a set of spontaneous, individual calls from the sidelines is slim. What is more likely to happen in my view is that the kids will become confused.

An example. My 7 year old son plays for a team, and his coach usually asks him to stay up front when we are defending. That is hard for a 7 year old to do in the first place, because if the ball is travelling back they are compelled to follow at that age. I remember several occasions where my son was in fact staying up front, as asked by his coach, when his granddad shouted for him to get back and tackle. Now his granddad meant well of course, and was just getting caught up in the excitement of watching football but it was the polar opposite of what the coach had asked. The coach responded by shouting for my son to go forward, and my son because became confused about two different instructions from two adults.

I believe that there needs to be one voice for players to follow, and not several, differing views, if they are to have a chance of following any instructions at all. So during the trials for my Saturday team, I wrote to all parents and explained that coaching from the sidelines was not permitted, and gave them the following reasons:

No coaching from the side please. Even adults struggle to absorb too many instructions before and during a game of football, so I like to try and keep the pre-match team-talk very simple, and try to link that talk to the training they had most recently and the long term development plan I am working towards. I firmly believe that if the players go onto the pitch with one idea and then hear shouts of ‘get back’ or ‘come wide’ or ‘shoot’ it confuses them, and undermines the work I am doing as a coach towards their long term development. The same rules apply to training. Sometimes it might look as if the boys are not doing exactly what I asked, but if I don’t correct them, it could be because I am giving them the licence to work the problem out for themselves. I would be grateful if you could allow them that as well.

We have only played a couple of games this season, but so far, so good. I think most people are reasonable, and if you clearly explain the reasons why you are asking this of them then they understand. We 100% want parents to encourage, cheer, clap and be to offer praise. Just not to offer instructions.

I’d be very interested in hearing any thoughts, ideas or experiences from other coaches on this topic in the comments?