Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Top 10 mistakes parents make about sport

David ClarkeBy David Clarke

Parents have a big influence on the type of player their child becomes. Parents have powerful emotions generated through their involvement with their children, which can be both positive enablers and negative barriers.

These will have wide-ranging and long-lasting influences on those young players. Parents need to look at the “big picture” issues and responsibilities, and not fall into making the common mistakes which abuse this power.

Top 10 mistakes

  1. Taking their child’s sport experience too seriously, and not mixing in the appropriate levels of fun and recreation.
  2. Expecting perfection in their child.
  3. Living vicariously – as though they were taking part themselves – through their child’s sport experiences.
  4. Making negative comments about other children, parents or coaches.
  5. Having an unrealistically overblown assessment of their child’s talent.
  6. Contradicting the advice and guidance of their child’s teachers, trainers and coaches, leading to the child being confused and torn in loyalties.
  7. Failing to realise when their child is developing their skills rather than being competitive.
  8. Failing to see the value of sports lessons as preparation for life itself.
  9. Not realising that their child can learn valuable sport and life lessons even when they lose.
  10. Labelling their child a choker or other name.

25 Comments so far
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Hard to be the pefect parent, just as it is hard to be the perfect athlete I guess :).

Comment by jumpingpolarbear

I agree with your point of view.

The parents have a huge influence on their childrens, and every dad or mom should go watching their son or daughter play for example soccer.. But its important that the parents know that the coach is the coach.

Comment by Assistenttræner

On the other side of the coin what do you do as parents with a coach that is constantly criticising the children, even during a match, in front of all their team, the opposition and the spectators?
It happened to me but the other parents were afraid to complain because of the coaches attitude and the fact that he threatened to leave if he was ever reported to the commitee.
It’s not always the parents who are at fault!

Comment by Keith Martin

Please report that coach. Who cares if they leave if no one is happy with their attitude. I myself coach and no it is important to have criticism but in an uplifting manner. Talking down to players doesn’t help anyone and discourages kids. Take a stand for your child and the team.

Comment by Melissa

No need now – the parents have gradually taken their kids away and he is left with 5 players for this coming season so cannot make a team. I feel sorry for the 5 players left (one is his son) as they have left it late to get into another team.

Comment by Keith Martin

Empathise …ask the coach for a meeting where you plan to stay very calm and make use of the positive sandwich …ie. Tell him what you really appreciate and have noticed to be good ( has to be something), then just say you are concerned about the instructions and tone..ask him to help you understand why this communication is necessary….stay less and listen more..genuinely listen…keep you body language open and non-confrontational…let him know that you understand the frustration ..give an example of your personal battle with frustration at times..highlight that you just concerned that according to physical literacy experts ..the 2 things that the brain wants to and needs to do when body-balance is Control & Vision….it needs to process stimuli that promotes relies on middle ear, joint and muscle sensors and vision for Improved Balance..It needs audio cues to enhance can process miriads of will be helpful if it heard positive re-enforcing verbal cues…like “control and have-a-look”…”Good effort..good idea”..”reset, Refocus”..rather than “why didn’t you pass”..”Give it to Gino”..”Get rid of it !” …This physical literacy approach gives the child freedom to make mistakes and creativity is not stifled…Make sure you coming from a point of recognising the good intentions of the want to help him bring about positive change…Then end off conversation with positive and a thank you. Most coaches are open to this “feedforward” approach rather than feedback.. Good luck !

Comment by Rowan

Excellent list. Despite my committing over half the mistakes listed my 3 kids all got a tremendous amount of benefit out of playing competitive soccer. It definitely taught them valuable life lessons including the the value of teamwork, hard work, and persistence toward one’s goals. Wish I had seen (and paid attention) to this list when my oldest first started. But parents also learn a lot in the process.

Comment by Robert Werner

In my years of coaching, the biggest problem with parents of fairly talented players is: Having an unrealistically overblown assessment of their child’s talent. This statement should be in bold oversized font.

Comment by saverio

Useful for every parent to take heed of these points. I get caught up myself a lot of the time and should keep these points in mind when dealing with my son!

Comment by Don

Reblogged this on SoccerPlayGroup (North Bergen County, NJ).

Comment by RJ Diaz

I think Bruce Brown has probably the best word on parents rolls in sport. On of his best comments, “there are four rolls in sports; player, coach, official and spectator/parent–everyone gets to pick ONE”. One of the best things we can be as parents is to be models of appropriate behavior for our children. When sideline is calm and composed we have better chances of having composed and confident children on the pitch. Screaming at coaches and officials is completely counter to teaching our children respect for authority.

Comment by cmajor

Agreed with the 10 points. As a person who has been involved in the sport for over 30 years of which the last several have been coaching, I can tell you that the #1 problem at times is the sideline. One bad parent on the sideline can cause an infection to the whole team. Coaches know what I’m talking about.

As a coach, I recruit the parent as well as the player. If I have a young player with loads of talent but it is evident that the parent is going to be a problem, I will avoid picking up the player just because of that.

So please, for the sake of all Coaches, if your a parent let the coach….Coach. If you don’t like his style then perhaps it’s time to start looking at other clubs.

Comment by Matt

Been guilty of some of these mistakes myself, it is easy to see why many kids quickly lose interest in playing sport.

Comment by Bill Kothstein

Parents are actually the bane of youth football.

Comment by Alex

I am a parent and a sports science consultant. The reasons for “unhelpful” parent behaviour are multi-factorial and should not be viewed as problems. The coach needs to change his/her attitude and view the parent’s behaviour as a challenge. Educate, set boundaries and give positive feedback. For instance: You know that every Parent wants to shout instructions (Most common instruction is PASS, PASS, PASS)…This is a great way of saying get rid of the ball as quickly as possible…despite the fact that the child’s brain would love to hear encouragement about control, spatial orientation and vision….The brain’s primary objective is control and balance when the spherical object is being manipulated by somebody whose neuro-muscular pathways are still immature. So why don’t you as coach sit down with parents and give them a list of the common phrases that are unhelpful and a list of the alternative phrases eg PASS, PASS, PASS should become Control-have-a-look….this gives the child the sensory input that the brain loves but importantly allows the child freedom to make a decision to Dribble, pass or shoot. It enlightens the parent. This can be progressed to Look-Control-Look for more advanced players….If you want to create a positive Learning environment then keep a close eye on your Attitude, Attributes, Aptitude and Application. These 4A’s will help you hit your altitude and create a culture of excellence. Do not leave the parent want them to re-enforce your input because the 1 hour you spend with the child will never add up to the 10 000 hours needed for optimum development..You need the parent..they need you ..the child needs both of you.

Comment by Rowan Windvogel

Great comments and very good advice!!!!!

Comment by Norrielewis

Fantastic Advice!!

Comment by John Higgins

I almost wish this were the problems I had to deal with. My teams’ parents are the opposite. I need to get them to understand that this is not just a social event for their kids and that bringing them to practice is important.

Comment by Tyrone

I coached some pretty good players last year who inherited some pretty bad attitudes from their parents. My team has a little less talent this year and a much better team atmosphere. So far, they are actually playing BETTER than last year. Now I have a sane sidline and happy players. Not only the players and parents seem to be having a more enjoyable year, so am I! The baggage isn’t worth it, no matter how good the players are. As for the unhappy parents; if the issues with the coach concern safety or berating of the players, talk with him after a practice, not before or after a game. If that doesn’t work, talk with a board member of your club. If you don’t agree with the coach’s philosophy or knowledge, keep your thoughts and coments to yourself and not to your child or other parents (that will just make it worse for everyone and will not fix anything). Grin and bear it for the remainder of the year and go somewhere else next year. I really like cmajor’s comment about picking 1 of the 4 roles. If everyone would remember that it’s all about the kids (fun and development), everything will be great.

Comment by kirk

Too often we forget they are just kids honing their talent and getting ready for life’s exeperiences which lawaits them in the near future.

Comment by Richie Lyle

Had a child say, “Don’t put me on that side of the field because my dad yells at me”.

Comment by

Alex /Aug15 states “parents are actually the bane of youth football “, I completely disagree. As a parent, manager, former board member in select soccer, I find the parents to be the lifeblood of the game. They support financially, emotionally and not just their own kids but all the players on the team and the coaches. Soccer parents are 98 0/0 terrific, and that last two percent, while sometimes a bit zealous and misguided, still would not harbor ill will against others. It is up to all of coaching and staff to present these rules and enforce them equitably among parents and coaches! I’ve seen some overzealous ego driven coaches, hell bent in winning at any cost, cut kids with outstanding potential just because they weren’t tall enough.

Comment by Lori b

Parents are funny and very driven to see their child succeed…What is funny to me is that they pay thousands of dollars for a coach to do their job and develop the player and all they want to do is question the coach and challenge the coach when the only sport they ever played was little league and pop warner. If you want your child to succeed, let us develop them in a positive environment

Comment by Jeff

Great stuff!

Comment by Beanie

Reblogged this on The Jersey Experiment and commented:
I agree with mistake #6. Parents, Teachers, Trainer and Coaches need to have a united front.

Comment by davidradney

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