As I scroll through my email tonight I see one for "Silent Sidelines" occurring this weekend. I thought "Huh? I wonder what this is". After reading the email I began to understand. While the soccer games I attend every weekend are for 5-6 year olds and parents generally cheer and applaud, with minimal negtive commentary, I am aware of how this will change as children grow and the games become more competitive.
As we live in an ever increasingly competitive world where one has to be the "best" to earn a college scholorship or simply the recognition from others, parents are becoming more enthusiatic at youth sporting events. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm is not always positive and encouraging. Many children and adolescents hear more criticism then praise as they are running down the sidelines attempting to make a play. Whether it is soccer, hockey, football, baseball, or other sports, parents feel the need to shout directions at their children duing the game. They drown out coaches and player-to-player communication to the extent that players are not always able to hear the necessary instructions from their coaches.
Here is are some reasons why this can be a problem...
Parental instructions may not be consistent with the coaches instructions thereby confusing the player
Signficant and repeative criticism from parents can be emotionally damaging to children's self-perception
Children can feel that they are not "good enough" to play the sport
The game becomes about individual "glory" instead of team success
The sport is no longer fun for the child/adolescent
Children can experience anxiety before games that makes it less likely they will play well
Children may refuse to continue playing the sport even if they are considered a good player
This list is not all inclusive and there are many more reasons to support positive parental engagement at youth sports events
There are people advocating for engaging the parents and using their influence on their children in a more positive way. I think this should also be considered as a method for reducing negative parental interaction at youth sports events.
Have fun at all your youth sports events this weekend!