When I was a kid one of the lads we played
football with often brought his dad along to play in goal as none of the
other kids liked going between the sticks (or cones in our case).
Which was great we all thought because Tommy
(the kids' father) was a brilliant goalkeeper and would really make us
work hard to get a goal where as us lot (the kids) were all rubbish
'keepers in comparison.
However, the downside to Tommy's presence
was his irritating insistence on bellowing out instructions to his son and
us kids at every turn, never failing to point out to us where we were
going wrong – in his eyes – as well as thinking he was refereeing a World
Cup Final, when in actual fact he was playing in a makeshift goal during a
game of singles and doubles or headers and volleys on a lop sided pitch
somewhere in inner Newcastle between 10-15 kids ranging from the ages of 8
Tommy meant well of course, but all us kids
wanted to do was play football – our football – where we were the
referees, the game was the teacher and adults were not welcome.
It got to the stage where poor Tommy's son
would often apologise for his father's, shall we say 'enthusiasm', and
others taking up the post as 'keeper against their will just to escape
Tommy the referee as he had become known to us kids.
Today Tommy hasn't changed at all, he is
still there shouting from the touchline and acting as an unofficial
referee waving imaginary yellow cards about and blowing on his imaginary
whistle while blasting out instructions like a Premiership manager
berating his troops for letting a lead slip.
If your name is Tommy, I have one thing to say to you – leave those
kids alone! You are benefiting no-one: not your son or daughter; the
coach or the other kids. I'm sure you mean well but all you're doing is
making a fool of yourself. That's right.
You are not a Premiership manager and these
kids are not professional footballers. They are kids and they don't need
someone on the touchline jumping up and down like a lunatic as if their
very life depended on the outcome of the match or the performance of their
One of the biggest reasons for kids
falling out of love with the beautiful game is pressure
One of the biggest headaches for coaches
is pushy parents
One of the biggest dreams of any parent is
for their child to become a professional footballer
The reason kids play football is because
it is fun
Take the fun factor out of the game for kids
and the depressing statistics prove that they soon get bored with it and
give it up and that would be criminal because football really is the
beautiful game in the eyes of those who play it. It hasn't become the
world's most popular sport by accident!
As a parent or guardian it is very hard to stand there and watch as your
kid falls flat on his/her face or lose out to an opponent.
Your instinct is to drive them on and
encourage them, but there is a fine line between encouragement and being
pushy or exerting unnecessary pressure on your kid. Sadly the latter is
Those parents who are pushy can force their child into their shell and
make them afraid of making a mistake – afraid to let YOU the parent or
That is wrong, no kid needs that and no
parent or guardian should EVER make a child feel ashamed or embarrassed of
their performance, ability or the result of a match they participate in,
much less be critical.
Kids are very tough and resilient but by the
same token they are also very fragile and need the confidence and belief
of their parents or guardians and that can only come from YOU.
In your role as the parent or guardian you can HELP your child or
a child by showing:
You can also HELP your child or a
All these things can help a child not only
develop but get more out of the game. With you on their side your child
will feel on top of the world and unbeatable. They will draw so much
confidence from you any fears or self doubt will disappear.
The pushy parent or guardian on the other hand can destroy a kids'
confidence, fill them full of fear and take the fun and pleasure out of
playing football that comes naturally to all those participating in the
sport, and once that happens it is very hard to reverse or address.
Your role doesn't just stop once a game has
finished either, pre and post-match is vitally important too.
You should never place demands on your kid
prior to a match like “score me a goal” or “get stuck in”. Instead send
them off with “have fun” or “enjoy yourself”. That way they go into the
match in a relaxed state of mind and with zero expectations placed on
their young shoulders – which is very important.
When a match has finished tell your child how well they played and that
you are very proud of them. Never be critical or offer analysis. Sometimes
kids will know exactly how well they did or how well they didn't do and
don't need you to remind them of a poor performance or equally to indulge
them if they had a great game.
Kids have naturally high expectations of
themselves and can be their own worst critics. If your child comes off the
pitch critical of their performance and upset you must LISTEN first
Kids know when they are being lied to so it
would be wrong of you to tell them they played great when they know
themselves that they didn't.
Instead, again tell them how proud you are
and try explain to them that everyone has good days and bad days, that
they can't always be the best player on the pitch every week and that you
have every confidence in them.
When this happens it is vital to NOT allow
your child or the child to dwell on such matters.
If your child or the child has had a great
game, it is just as important that you don't indulge them. Simple praise
and acknowledgment will suffice.
Many parents or guardians often go over the
top with praise and can indeed get caught up themselves and the last thing
any kid needs regardless of their ability is to be told that they are
going to be a star - or worse - a professional footballer!
Back to the game
During the match every kid looks out to see
a familiar face if their parent, guardian or someone they know is in
attendance and therefore a little smile, a nod, a wink or a thumbs up is
all that is needed instead of shouts of “well done” which can distract a
kid and make them very self conscious of themselves and that you are
somewhere in the crowd watching their every move.
That can, believe it or not, have a negative
impact on their game and attitude during the game.
Via subtle encouragement and recognition
your child will eventually stop looking for you in the crowd safe in the
knowledge that you are there and they don't need to impress you or look
for your approval.
This will allow them to concentrate on the game and play an unpressurised
match, free to express and to enjoy themselves, to have fun.
And for kids, fun is the name of the
game, always remember that!
Much of this article centres on the parents
of those kids who play football matches for teams but many of the
principles discussed above still apply to those of you who have a
kick-about on parks or in the back garden with your kids or kids under
your supervision. Indeed these principles apply to any type of sport or
kids' activities. And sadly there are also many coaches out there who need
reminding of these principles too, so this article is also aimed at them.
Lastly, if you are another Tommy, you are
not a bad parent or guardian because you want success for your kid. By
being as involved as you are that to me suggests you are a very good
parent or guardian and that you have your kid's best interests at heart.
However, you have to find the right balance
between encouragement and being pushy and never forget that for kids, they
see football as a fun activity not to be taken so serious, an activity
where they can be kids free from adult rule. Please don't take that away
Football's pushy parents shown the red card
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