The Youth Sport Parents & Coaches Wish List

SoccerDadSonBad behavior in sports, at all levels, is at an all-time high. Several years ago, an umpire had his jaw broken by an angry coach. One week prior, a father died in a fight with another father at a youth hockey game. (Read the article.) A website;, exists solely to collate bad behavior by those involved in sports.

By now, we’ve all seen recently fired Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice “at work.” What is equally as disturbing is that, most assuredly, this is not new behavior for Mr. Rice. As he worked his way up the coaching ranks, Rice’s abusive behavior was ignored because he won games. None of us want to have our children coached by men (and women) like this. Most assuredly, if Mr. Rice has children, his behavior as he spectates at his children’s games is no better.

In my last post, I asked for help putting together a parents & coaches wish list. As coaches; what makes for great soccer parents? As parents; what makes for a great coach? I asked everyone; what can we do to deal with bad behavior on both touchlines?

I asked parents “When coaches are behaving badly, what do you wish would occur to alter that behavior?” One dad responded:

Tough one. Who are they accountable to during practices/games? After the fact I can envision a process being in place, one anonymous and online for feedback regarding bad behavior, but day of and in the thick of things? I don’t know that any good can come from challenging someone on the spot like that unless it’s egregious.

I also asked:  “When you see other parents behaving badly, how do wish that behavior be handled?” Another Dad answered:

In my crazy head, I wish there was something like the gong on the Gong Show or the big hook from the cartoons that basically lets these parents know you have failed and it’s time for you to go.

I posed this to coaches: “What one thing would you like parents to remember?”

I do wish that parents would remember that these kids are still 6, 7 and 8, so chill. Parents should never ask their kid why they didn’t do something, like pass, shoot or stop a shot. Most coaches will notice these things and teach accordingly. You should just encourage them and remind them that fun is the name of the game.

I started playing soccer in elementary school in the late 1960s. I played in college. I started coaching soon after college while I played in men’s leagues. I have seen nearly every form of bad behavior from parents and coaches. I have also seen far more parents that I am proud to call friends and coaches that I am proud to call colleagues. Rather than relate the horror stories that I have witnessed and that my readers have shared, as a ‘glass half-filled” kind of guy, let’s focus on solving the problem.


PARENTS– your 7-year-old child is not going to play as well as a 10-year-old. He may not play as well as your best friend’s 7 year old, either. Youth soccer is a development sport. Let your kid develop at his/her own pace. Even if your kid ‘punches above her weight,” the odds are still far greater that she’ll become an orthopedic surgeon than she’ll play on the US Women’s National Team (USWNT).

COACHES – You are not Sir Alex Ferguson, coaching Man U. at Wembley. You are a parent who has volunteered some time to help kids learn the basics of a lifelong sport. Screaming at little kids and a fifteen year old referee whilst kicking a ball into the water cooler does not demonstrate intensity. It demonstrates idiocy.


PARENTS: You may not believe this, but your child is very much attuned to your voice. When you start shouting instructions from the parents’ touchline, you do not help. One of three things happens.

1) Your kid listens to you. Your instructions run counter to what the coaches are trying to accomplish. Bad.

2) You kid listens to you. S/he freezes, since it takes time to process Dad’s instructions versus Coach’s. The play goes right past your kid. Bad.

3) Your kid ignores you. Good in the short term, but a bad precedent is set.

Positive cheering = GOOD. Instructional cheering = BAD.

COACHES: As a parent commented “If my kid has to play Red Light Green Light one more time at practice…”  Coach, you have made the commitment to direct this team. Get good at it. There are hundreds of books dedicated to age-appropriate drills for kid soccer. There are hundreds of websites as well. Every local league offers clinics. The US Soccer Federation (USSF), the US Youth Soccer Association (USYSA), American Youth Soccer Association (AYSO),  and the Canada Soccer (CSA)  all have educational programs. There is no excuse for drill boredom on the practice field. None.


PARENTS & COACHES: There is no room in youth sports, on either sideline, for adults who cannot control their behavior. Several developmental leagues have taken to training adults in non-violent interventional strategies. In pairs, these volunteers rove the fields, on game and practice days, and intercede with parents and coaches who seem to be having a difficult time keeping their cool. I have also read of leagues in which cell phone video is taken and the guilty parties are ‘invited’ to a meeting where their behavior is addressed. Most leagues require coaches and referees to file reports on misbehaving parents and offer parents the same opportunities via email to the league’s coaching director.


Rabbi Hillel, twenty-two hundred years ago, said it this way, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” These are kids. We are Dads & Moms, coaches and administrators, trying to make sure our kids have great early experiences playing a game they can play until old age. Soccer is fun.

Celebrate Success. Absolutely.Bill Ted Rufus

But even more? Encourage  Effort.

Rabbi Hillel may have said it first, but Bill and Ted said it best.

Be excellent to each other out there.

Next Time: Some tips on organizing your practice.

Feature Image credit: mtraker / / CC BY-NC-SA


The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at

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  1. When is your book coming out? *ahem

  2. therookiedad says:

    These will definitely be some tips that I am going to keep in mind when I am coaching my son.

  3. Johnc555 says:

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