Angry parents on the sideline pressure their children

A campaign is set to prevent parent behaviour worsening on the side-line, while the kids play their sport. Experts believe, that the parents should remain parents and let the coach handle the scolding and critique.

September 7th, 2017

Angry parents on the sideline pressure their children
Parents should remain parents and let the coach handle the scolding and critique.

Around the indoor and outdoor sport fields, parents are gathering to support their children every weekend. The majority supports their son’s or daughter’s sport with a caring, yet controlled attitude. At the same time, a few ruin the experience for the rest. Here we refer to those parents, that cannot control their frustrations, and end up harassing the judges, opponents, and players. 

The Danish Football Association has set to change this in Danish football. Using the campaign name “Remember the respect – also on the side-line”, they encouraged better behaviour amongst the parents. Based on a thorough study 20% of the total 1071 asked football judges, suggested that the behaviour of parents is getting worse on the side-line. Specifically, the judges criticised the parent’s way of yelling, that they attack everything from the players appearance to their skills.

Even though an equally large percentage believes that the side-line behaviour is improving, the Danish Football Association has set their focus on improving the behaviour amongst the individuals, that destroy the positive atmosphere around the pitch.

"The majority knows exactly how to behave. While others, in the heat of the match will do something that they wouldn’t have done if they had used a little thought. It’s a mutual responsibility that we have to act appropriate on and off the pitch.", said Bent Clausen, the vice chairman of the Danish Football Association and chairman for the committee according to Århus Stiftstidende last year.

6 out of 10 clubs follow a set of rules

"We started the campaign after being encouraged by judges and others within the world of football, because every once in a while, there are someone that forget about the respect on the side-line. We want the parents to be good role models. It’s a mutual responsibility.", Bent Clausen explained TV2.

Other elements of the study showed, that 60% of the Danish football clubs have adopted policies or a set of rules relating to what the acceptable behaviour should be from the involved coaches, parents, etc. Bent Clausen cheers for this result and encourages every coach to take action on this problem at its root on the individual teams of their club.

"The problem must be attacked at the team level. We want more people to focus on the issue, because we know that there are many younger players who will stop playing, because they cannot deal with the pressure from the sideline.", he concludes.

The 5 campaign advice
  • Do it for the kids
  • Football is a game
  • It's not Champions League
  • The judge is a volunteer
  • The judge is human

The former national team player Martin Jørgensen became representative for the 5 pieces of advice, that were set to stop the tendency of yelling parents. In his own position as a coach for U14 players he decided, that he alone, was allowed to give instructions. The parents should first and foremost focus on being parents.

"It’s pretty straight forward – football must be fun for the kids, and should therefore we need a nice atmosphere. The worst thing at a match, is when the parents are yelling at the players and the judge. This yelling can put negative pressure on the kids, while it can mean that the kids might follow the tactics of the parents rather than the agreed upon tactics set by the coach.", Martin Jørgensen says.

Swedish code

In Sweden, they have experienced the same problem of too engaged parents. Stockholm’s three largest football clubs Hammarby IF, AIK and Djurgården IF have also adopted a code of conduct, after a national study based on the overenthusiastic parents. This code must be signed by all parents and players in the clubs, before they are allowed on and beside the pitch.

The study showed that, one out of three young football players had considered to stop playing football because of the shouting. Furthermore, 83% of the parents studied, had answered that they had experienced other parents pushing their children too hard and harassing the judge. 1600 parents have signed the code in July.

"Working with our values is important, if not the most important, area of focus that our leaders and we as a club are working on. A part of this work is obviously focussed on how parents act, and in order to empathise their responsibility, we have created this document that outlines how as a parent you can best support your child.", Peter Kleve who is the manager of Hammarby IF commented.

The child's ambition rather than that of their parents

According to Reinhard Stelter, a Danish professor in sport and coaching psychology from the sport and health institute of Copenhagen University, the roles of the parent and the coach must be separated.

"The parent’s participation in the child’s sport is highly important, but it is important to remember, that it is the project of the child and not that of their parent.", Stelter argued in 2014, and continues:

"The worst thing that can happen is, if the parents start to get ambitions for their children. We should not put the children under pressure, just because we parents have our own ambitions."

Stelter believes that the society’s general focus on improvement puts a lot pressure on children. It is not enough to be good in school – many parents also expect, their children to be good in sport. He therefore encourages – similarly to Martin Jørgensen – that the parents remain parents.

Behaviour infects

"When one parent is allowed to yell idiot, wanker, and so on, then another parent deems it acceptable to do the same. This domino effect will at some point get out of hand, and curse words become natural. It’s a question of which behaviour we allow.", the behavioural expert Tony Evald Clausen says to Århus Stiftstidende (Danish paper).

Back to the study by the Danish Football Association. 5% answered, that they wouldn’t do anything if another child’s parent starts shouting. The expert describes this as “The Bystander Effect”.

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"When the quiet majority doesn’t say anything, then the individual yelling will get the impression that they support him."

Tony Evald Clausen also has the impression that we as humans to a greater and greater extent evaluate ourselves from how our children perform.

"Every human is coined this way, that we want our children to do better than ourselves. In Denmark, we have reached the point where the parent believes that he/she knows only what’s best for their child, and that all others are supposed to support that child in everything. Some parents don’t realise when they cross the line – especially when they stand on the side line of their child’s match.", Clausen concludes.

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