How to Watch Children Play Soccer (Football): Parent's Guide
Basic etiquette required
While it is a well-known fact that the job of parents is to embarrass their children, certain restrictions apply when observing offspring playing sports. Toward the end of this article, I will share some acceptable offspring-embarrassing behavior you can display from the sidelines of the soccer field; but if my recent observations are an indication of parental behavior worldwide, the most important list to provide for soccer moms and dads is the list of “don’ts.”
1. NEVER rush onto the field when your child (particularly above age 12) trips and falls. This may supply much-needed embarrassment for your offspring, but the action will likely back-fire. Another parent is probably taking a video for posterity, and it will be less than 5 hours before the YouTube video of “Crazy Soccer Mom Rushes to Save Son’s Uniform from Grass Stains” goes viral.
2. NEVER rush onto the field to congratulate your child during the game. While this will provide a small amount of embarrassment to your child, the damage to the team will be great. Unlike American football, the soccer game will not pause because someone made a goal. They need to keep playing well. Don’t interrupt your child’s momentum.
3. NEVER rush onto the field to holler at a referee. Embarrassing to your child or not, this teaches unsportsmanlike conduct. If you must holler at the referee, do so from the sidelines and keep your language family friendly. Inappropriate comments to the ref could result in the dismissal of your offspring from the team. It just isn’t worth it.
4. NEVER rush onto the field to discipline your child. This includes lazy offspring who are not paying attention, klutzy offspring who are doing their best with the genes you gave them, and aggressive offspring who will be duly disciplined by their coach or referee when the time comes.
5. NEVER rush onto the field. In case you haven’t gotten my drift, refrain from rushing onto the pitch during a game. While there may be a rare occasion when a parent’s presence on the field is appropriate, jumping to the conclusion that this game requires your interference for the safe and adequate performance of your offspring is not the answer. Don’t put a toe past the edge of the pitch unless a.) your child needs to be pulled off another child when a fight breaks out, b.) your child needs to be rescued from another child when a fight breaks out, or c.) your child is lying on the ground moaning and the coach and referee are halting the game because of an injury.
Lest I discourage any young, naïve or well-meaning parents, there is an important set of “dos” also.
What Do You Think?
Are there parents in your child's soccer club that you wish would receive a red card from the referees?
1. ALWAYS make sure your children get to games on time. In addition to teaching your offspring responsibility, arriving on time to games shows that you as a parent are a team player. I know time is tight and your schedule is full, but making sure your offspring can regularly and promptly attend the activities in which you involve them is a part of responsible parenting. Do it.
2. ALWAYS attend your children’s games if at all possible. No matter your child’s skill level, the love and support of a parent is invaluable.
3. ALWAYS encourage your child. For young children, this means finding something good they did in the game—always. For older children, this means congratulating them when they did well, supporting them when they fail, and helping them find a more suitable activity if they really stink at soccer.
4. ALWAYS work to contain the behavior of your other children who accompany you to the game. If you have younger children, make sure they do not wander onto the soccer pitch, get into the post-game juice boxes behind the coach’s back, or try to join the team huddle during a time out. If you are watching outdoor soccer, take advantage of the environment to let your younger children scream and holler to their hearts’ content. As long as you have strictly avoided “don’t” number 3 above, you will have nothing to worry about when they use their outside voices to cheer on a sibling.
5. ALWAYS love. Always support. Always encourage. Always be there. In short, good parenting skills will carry you on and off the sidelines with dignity.
Of course, you need to have the opportunity to embarrass your children at soccer games. For this opportunity, consider cheering louder than any other parent in attendance or showing up in a borrowed cheerleader’s uniform (this works especially well for dads). Moms might holler an affectionate but embarrassing nickname (like pookie or baby doll) while encouraging their children from the sidelines. Prolonged and affectionate goodbyes or good luck routines before a game are also effective, particularly if they take place in front of the entire team. Use your own creativity to come up with more.