How coaches can deal with a loud parent on the sideline

Sports educator, John O'Sullivan explains what coaches can do when a parent on the sideline is distracting or loud.
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How coaches can deal with a loud parent on the sideline

I think one of the most important things that coaches can do is educate parents on how distracting it can be for players when their parents are coaching them from the sideline; when they're shouting instructions onto the field, when they're yelling at referees and things like that. And so, I think it's very important for coaches to educate their parents before the season, during the season and throughout, and really focus on what parents are saying and what they are doing on the sideline. Now, sometimes this is hard if you're on one sideline and the parents are 70 yards away on the other sideline. You don't necessarily hear everything that is going on. But if you are aware of it, do something about it. I've seen so many kids in the middle of a game, stop a play, turned and looked at their mom or their dad and say, "Be quiet. Leave me alone." Think about how distracting that is. How could your child possibly play well? So, as a coach, you have to confront that parent and you have to let them know how distracting that is for the kids, not only their own kid, but for the other kids. Now, what I say to people at time is we don't go to math class and yell at our kids to carry the 1 or to multiply this during a math test because we realized that wouldn't be helpful, it would be distracting. So, why do we think that it's actually helpful in a sporting event that we're telling our kids what to do and where to go and where to run and whether they should shoot? So, as a coach, you need to be your player's advocate and you need to take that parent and say, "If you cannot come here and say nothing, then please don't come at all." If you get to the point where fight is brewing, there is a belligerent parent who you think is going to attack a referee or attack an opposing coach or God forbid an opposing player. As a coach there, you have to look at the bigger picture. There is nothing more important than the experience of those kids and their memory of sports. Is there memory going to be someone's dad getting cordoned away to jail because he beat up a referee? And so, I've had probably two to three situations in my coaching career where it gotten so bad, not from the parents on my team, but from opposing parents who were treating a referee a certain way from opposing teams who were just out of control that I just said, "Stop! Come on off the field. We'll walk away and we'll play another day because this is not what sports as supposed to be about." And so, it can be very difficult as a coach and especially if you're just a volunteer coach and you've given your time and your effort to help out and someone is out of control. And so, you have to go to your league or to your club administrator and say, "I cannot keep coaching if this parent situation is not resolve." Now, if it's something and it's going to be happening right there, then sometimes you have to step in and say, "Enough." One of the worst things that you might have to do, but I've had to do this once or twice and say to a parent, "If you cannot control yourself, your child can no longer be a part of this." And it's really sad because you are punishing a child for the actions of the parent, but that parent's actions are affecting how many other kids, countless other kids every time they step on the field.

Sports educator, John O'Sullivan explains what coaches can do when a parent on the sideline is distracting or loud.


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John O'Sullivan

Founder of Changing The Game Project

John O’Sullivan founded the Changing the Game Project in 2012 in order to help parents, coaches and youth sports organizations create a more child-centered sports experience for our young athletes. John is a former collegiate and professional player, and worked for 20 years on the youth, high school and college level as a coach and club Technical Director. He holds a USSF A License, NSCAA Advanced National Diploma, and a US Youth Soccer National License. His blog is now one of the most popular youth sports websites in the US, and he has been a featured presenter at TEDx Bend Oregon, IMG Academy, and this week at the NSCAA Convention. The Changing the Game Project provides live and online parent and coaching education workshops, webinars, and consulting services.

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