Net safety reminder

source: CMSA

Please remember to anchor goals and do not hang on or swing from the nets.

Injuries are completely preventable if clubs, coaches, parents and players work together to ensure that goalposts are anchored to the ground and that at no time do individuals swing or hang from the nets.

A Global News story from Ontario reporting on a fatal incident where a goalpost fell on a player: CLICK HERE


Definitions of Bullying and Harassment

Source: ––bullying-and-abuse-prevention/educators/bullying-and-harassment-prevention/definitions-of-bullying-and-harassment

What is bullying?

Bullying is a form of aggression where there is a power imbalance; the person doing the bullying has power over the person being victimized.

The different types of bullying

  • Physical bullying: using physical force or aggression against another person (e.g., hitting)
  • Verbal bullying: using words to verbally attack someone (e.g., name-calling)
  • Social/relational bullying: trying to hurt someone through excluding them, spreading rumours or ignoring them (e.g., gossiping)
  • Cyberbullying: using electronic media to threaten, embarrass, intimidate, or exclude someone, or to damage their reputation (e.g., sending threatening text messages).

The difference between bullying and harassment

Bullying and harassment are similar, yet different:

  • Harassment is similar to bullying because someone hurts another person through cruel, offensive and insulting behaviours
  • Harassment is different from bullying in that it is a form of discrimination.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is treating someone differently or poorly based on certain characteristics or differences. Bullying turns into harassment when the behaviour goes against Canada’s Human Rights Laws and focuses on treating people differently because of:

  • Age
  • Race (skin colour, facial features)
  • Ethnicity (culture, where they live, how they live, how they dress)
  • Religion (religious beliefs)
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation (if they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual)
  • Family status (if they are from a single parent family, adopted family, step family, foster family, non-biological gay or lesbian parent family)
  • Marital status (if they are single, legally married, common-law spouse, widowed, or divorced)
  • Physical and mental disability (if they have a mental illness, learning disability, use a wheelchair)

The Talent That Whispers



The scouts snickered. They looked at the time again. To this day the 5.28 second 40 yard dash time is one of the slowest for quarterbacks in the history of the NFL combine. His 24.5 inch vertical leap didn’t have them lining up at his door either. He had been a good, but not an outstanding college quarterback, and as far as statistics went, he was far from a sure thing. The New England Patriots used the 199th pick in the NFL draft to select him in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft. The quarterback’s name was Tom Brady.

Five Super Bowl championships, four Super Bowl MVP awards, two NFL MVP’s, and numerous regular season and playoff records later, Brady is arguably the greatest football player of all time. So how did all the experts select 198 players ahead of him in the NFL draft?  And why are we writing about Tom Brady?

Because we are in such a hurry to turn our kid’s sporting experiences into adult ones, to select “talent” as soon as possible, and to focus on statistics instead of other characteristics that are harder to measure. Our system is setup to weed out kids who are late bloomers and have neither the time, the money, or the desire to go all in on a sport in elementary school.

Our system is setup to find the talent that shouts, but not the talent that whispers.

In our hyper-competitive youth sports world, we are racing to the bottom in a huge hurry to accelerate development. We are pushing single-sport specialization younger and younger. We are having tryouts, making cuts, and forming travel teams while children are still in elementary school. Parents are afraid that if they don’t hire a private trainer for their 8-year-old, she will be pushed out of the system. We are pouring the training volume of a fifteen-year-old into a nine-year-old, and then proclaiming “look how good he is” and splattering the video all over YouTube.

We are creating a youth sports environment that only works for those with the most money, the most time, and often, the well-intentioned parents with the greatest willingness to look the other way and ignore not only all the science and research, but that gut-feeling that says “I don’t think this is working for my kid, but I am going to do it anyway because I am scared if I don’t, my kid will miss out.

We are throwing dozens of eggs against a wall and hoping one or two won’t crack, and with little regard for those eggs that do break.

We are great at selecting the talent that shouts. These are the kids who are usually born within a few months of the arbitrary calendar cutoff, known as the relative age effect. Study after study has shown the bias toward older birth dates in sports (those born in the first half of the sporting calendar year.) Another study shows how the relative age bias is increasing. Programs select those who have specialized first. We grab the biggest, fastest and strongest, and select based on output, instead of looking at the input that created said output.

As author Rasmus Ankerson says in the video below, we are ignoring the talent that whispers.  We are cutting the late bloomer before she has a chance to grow. We are stifling the love of the game for the multi-sport child who is searching for a sport that he loves the most. We are so results driven that if a kid cannot help us win today, we don’t have time to wait for tomorrow.

Why? If NFL scouts cannot pick a Tom Brady at age 23, why do we deify Pop Warner football players, or let others rot on the bench?

If Lorenzo Cain can become an MLB playoff MVP and World Series champion by playing baseball for the first time as a high school sophomore, why are moms and dads led to believe that if their son wants to try baseball for the first time at age 9, it’s too late?

If NHL scouts and coaches still could not peg future Hall of Famer, MVP and scoring champ Martin St Louis at age 24, why are we so worried about who makes the PeeWee AAA team?

If swimmer Conor Dwyer can win gold medals in swimming at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and he was a college walk-on who did not start swimming full time until his senior year of high school, why are some youth swim programs telling kids to go all in by age 10 or it’s too late?

Sure, Dwyer, St. Louis, Brady and Cain are outliers, similar to the “talent that shouts” outlier examples of Tiger Woods or the Williams sisters in tennis. Yet the research is clear on one thing: if you want to have the best chance of identifying long-term potential, be patient. As world-renowned sport scientist and researcher Jean Cote states, “long-term prediction of talented athletes is unreliable, especially when detection of talent is attempted during the prepubertal or pubertal growth periods.

Every athlete has his or her own path. Some show aptitude from day one and others burst upon the scene later. Some are the first to grow, and dominate early on through sheer physical prowess, while others grow last and develop grit and resilience to go with a good sporting brain and skill set. If you are developing athletes simply to win the 12-year-old championship, then, by all means, force them to do as much as possible as soon as possible. They will likely win now, but not be prepared to win long term. But if you can put aside the fear, and take the long view, you have a much better chance of helping your own children, and any athletes you coach, find their greatness, regardless of whether their talent whispers or shouts.

It is time for parents, and coaches, to not only ask, but demand our sporting institutions do the following:

  • Train as many kids as possible, for as long as possible, in the best environment possible (see Johan Fallby interview here)
  • Develop all kids, not just the ones who seem the best right now
  • Recognize that some kids play simply for the sake of playing, with no long term focus on performance
  • Instill a love of the game, so that kids want to play more and get extra time on task
  • Create pathways for performance-focused and participation-focused children
  • Train all our coaches, even if this means fewer volunteers and more paid AND prepared men and women (a soon to be released study by Dr. Mark Robinson of University of Delaware demonstrates paid, trained coaches increase participation and retention).
  • Demand continuing education of our coaches and anyone working with kids, not just on Xs and Os, but on motivation and communication
  • Start treating coaches like valued educators and provide them the respect, trust, and necessary tools to do their job the right way

We also must start teaching and promoting other qualities in young athletes other than those easily measured by a stopwatch or tape measure, qualities that allow for a bigger upside as training volume increases:

  • Are they coachable/do they have a teachable spirit?
  • Do they work hard?
  • Do they have a growth mindset?
  • Are they focused on what they can give, rather than what they can get?
  • Do they work well with others?
  • Do they deal well with adversity?
  • Are they a good decision maker?
  • Are they accountable?

Parents and coaches, please let our kids play lots of sports until they find one that is a great fit.

Please understand the effects of Relative Age and whether that is advantaging or disadvantaging your young athletes.

Please be patient with development.

Please look beyond current output by gauging the level of current input, and observing qualities that will allow for additional input when it really matters.

Please remember Tom Brady, the less than impressive NFL combine performer who became the best of all time.

In other words, forget for a moment the talent that shouts. In every town, in every age, there is an athlete just waiting to be found if we give him or her the chance.

Look for the talent that whispers.


Podcast #4: David Epstein, The Sports Gene, and the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Perfromance


This week on the Way of Champions Podcast, John O’Sullivan gets to chat with David Epstein, author of the internationally best-selling book The Sports Gene: The Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance and one of our FAVORITE all-time books. The book is a top 10 New York Times bestseller and was chosen as a best non-fiction book of 2013 by The Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly. Runner’s World chose The Sports Gene as its book of the year, and the book was a finalist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, the PEN/ESPN Literary Sports Writing Award, and the National Academy of Sciences Communication Award. It has been translated into sixteen languages.  In the conversation, John and David discuss:

  • How his book debunked the “10,000-hour rule” that Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in Outliers
  • Is it nature, or nurture, or both when it comes to athletic development
  • How Tiger Woods’ path was not the same as Roger Federer, Steve Nash or Lorenzo Cain
  • How in some complex activities, practice actually pulls athletes apart rather than bringing them together, as those sensitive to learning improve faster
  • How coaches and parents can help young athletes find their “true calling” in sports by creating and encouraging multi-sport environments
  • Ways coaches can serve the individual needs of every athlete within a team environment
  • How he is more concerned with doing things the way research says instead of how we’ve always been doing it.

Our first four episodes are now available for download from iTunes. You can listen to, subscribe and download by clicking here:

Listen to the Way of Champions Podcast on iTunes.

How to Subscribe to a Podcast

If you enjoy the podcast, please consider subscribing. You can also help us by leaving a review as it will help us grow our reach, as our goal is to become a go-to resource for sports parents, coaches and anyone involved in youth, high school, college and professional sports.

You can buy the Sports Gene here: The Sports Gene on Amazon

You can find David on his website: The Sports Gene Website

Twitter: @DavidEpstein

Minifest takes place May 27 & June 3

Source: CMSA

240 teams, 2000+ players and two weekends of grassroots soccer

Hosted by the Calgary Minor Soccer Association (CMSA), Minifest is a season-end grassroots soccer festival for all youth soccer players ages 4 – 8. Minifest helps young players learn the game of soccer and encourages physical activity in a fun, non-competitive format with additional activities open to all players and family members.

The Minifest celebration has grown to be so big that it now expands over two weekends:

Players from across the city participate in this memorable soccer festival and are cheered on by their family as they participate in two games followed by family fun activities including bouncer castles, trampolines, a petting zoo, food trucks and more.

Minifest is not only CMSA’s largest annual tournament, but one of the biggest grassroots festivals in Canada thanks to the support from the event’s two major sponsors: Tim Horton’s who sponsors all U6 teams, and Shane Homes who sponsors all U8 teams. It is with the help of Tim Hortons and Shane Homes that CMSA is able to host this incredible soccer festival for these young soccer players and their families each year.

Episode #1-3 of the Way of Champions Podcast with 36x NCAA Champion Dr. Jerry Lynch, EPL Sport Psych Dan Abrahams, and Coach Lisa Cole


Today marks a huge day in the evolution of the Changing the Game Project, as we launch the first three episodes of our brand new endeavor, the Way of Champions Podcast (click here to subscribe)! Our goal is to give parents, coaches, youth sports administrators, and athletes access to the top minds in coaching, talent development, athletic performance, and more. Every week we will be interviewing fascinating figures such as world champion athletes, Olympic and international level coaches, as well as top researchers and authors. Some may be household names, and others you may never have heard of, but you will be glad you do.

This podcast is a partnership between Changing the Game Project and the Founder of Way of Champions, Dr. Jerry Lynch. For those who have not heard of Jerry’s work, he has been in the leadership and team development business for decades and his teams have won 36 NCAA titles and world championships. He has worked with iconic coaches, and college programs from schools such as Stanford, The University of North Carolina, University of Maryland, Syracuse, and many others. Many of his twelve books are considered mandatory reading for coaches and professional athletes. We are so excited to be working with Jerry to give you access to many of the top minds in sport.

Our first three episodes are now available for download from iTunes, and every Friday we will post another episode. We will embed the audio in our Friday blog post. You can listen to, subscribe and download by clicking here:

Listen to the Way of Champions Podcast.

How to Subscribe to a Podcast

If you enjoy the podcast, please consider subscribing. You can also help us by leaving a review as it will help us grow our reach, as our goal is to become a go-to resource for sports parents, coaches and anyone involved in youth, high school, college and professional sports.

Over the next weeks, you will hear from guests such as 2x Olympic Gold Medalist Ashton Eaton, author of The Sports Gene David Epstein, World Cup soccer players Angela Hucles and Jay DeMerit, World and Olympic Champion coach Tony DiCicco, and many others.

Let’s get started. Here are our first three episodes:

WOC #1: 36x NCAA Champion Team Consultant Dr. Jerry Lynch

Dr. Lynch and John talk about meeting the great Dean Smith, the qualities of great teams, how to build and coach values based and purpose-driven teams, and so much more. He has worked as a Sports Psychologist for men’s and women’s Basketball, Lacrosse, Field Hockey and Soccer teams at the universities such as North Carolina, Duke, Maryland, California, UConn and Stanford and continues to work with several teams nationally. He has been involved with athletes at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado, helping them to overcome fears, blocks, and slumps, and to perform up to their potential. Several of his clients have participated in various summer and winter Olympic games. Aside from sports, Dr. Lynch has worked with performing artists and corporate executives and currently works closely with Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors. You can find Dr. Lynch at

WOC #2: EPL, PGA, and Olympic Sports Psychologist Dan Abrahams

Dan Abrahams and John discuss how he works with professional and Olympic athletes to remove interference and help them perform their very best. They also discuss how coaches and parents can best help, and not hinder their athletes progress on every level from youth to the pros. Dan is a former professional golfer and now a global sports psychologist, working alongside leading players, teams, coaches and organizations across the world in multiple sports. He is known for his passion and ability to de-mystify sports psychology, as well as his talent for creating simple to use techniques and performance philosophies, and he is the author of several sport psychology books as well as the founder of the Dan Abrahams Soccer Academy.

Find Dr. Abrahams on Twitter: @DanAbrahams77 or @AbrahamsGolf

Website: get 20% off the online Dan Abrahams Soccer Academy psychology program by emailing [email protected] and mentioning Way of Champions Podcast.

Books: Click here for Dan’s Amazon author page to find Soccer Tough, Golf Tough and others books

WOC #3: Professional Women’s soccer coach Lisa Cole, Head Coach of Papua New Guinea Women’s National Team

John O’Sullivan sits down with Lisa Cole to discuss her amazing coaching journey as a longtime college assistant and head coach, Head Coach of the Boston Breakers in the NWSL, and international coach with Papua New Guinea Women’s Soccer during the 2016 U20 Women’s World Cup. She discusses some of the qualities of the best athletes and coaches she has worked with and tells us about her experience the past 18 months working with PNG and their amazing ride through the World Cup. The story is an incredible example of the power and impact of sport and will give you goosebumps.

You can find Lisa on Twitter at @LCole22

Picture day for outdoor 2017 season

Good Afternoon DUFC Families,

This coming Saturday is Picture Day!

Our pictures will be held at Thorncliffe Greenview Community Centre located @ 5600 Centre Street N between 10:30am-2:30pm. They will be taken in the old lobby which is where the arena is located, the sign above the door says 5600 room. If you don’t know your exact time please contact your coaches and manager.

We have requested a second day for those who can’t make it and if they are able to accommodate us we will advise the coaches.

Please have your players dressed in: black shorts, jersey, black socks and shoes.

The cost for the Team Pictures was included in your registration fees.

DUFC Team Pictures
10:40U4 Seahorses & Beavers
10:50U4 Dolphins & Wolves
11:00GU10 Silverfox
11:10BU10 Magik
11:20BU10 Mavericks
11:30U8 Shockwave
11:40U8 Speedballs
11:50GU12 Mystique
12:00GU16 Wildcats
12:10BU12 Kraken
12:20BU12 Titans
12:30BU12 Surge
12:40U6 Avengers & Aztecs
12:50U8 Nova
1:00U8 Nitro
1:10U8 Stringrays
1:20U6 Raiders & Hurricanes
1:30BU16 Juventus
1:40BU18 Atletico
1:50GU14 Tigers
2:00BU16 Eagles
2:10BU18 Seagulls
2:20BU14 Snipers

See you Saturday!

Facts on Bullying and Harassment

source: redcross ––bullying-and-abuse-prevention/educators/bullying-and-harassment-prevention/facts-on-bullying-and-harassment

Bullying, cyberbullying and harassment jeopardize learning

  • Canadian teachers ranked cyberbullying as their issue of highest concern out of six listed options—89 per cent said bullying and violence are serious problems in our public schools.1
  • Victims of harassment report a loss of interest in school activities, more absenteeism, lower-quality schoolwork, lower grades, and more skipping/dropping classes, tardiness and truancy.2
  • Young people who report lower academic achievement levels or negative feelings about the school environment are more likely to be involved in bullying.3
  • 71 per cent of teachers say they usually intervene with bullying problems; but only 25 per cent of students say that teachers intervene.4
  • Over half of bullied children do not report being bullied to a teacher.5

Statistics on bullying and harassment

  • A 2010 research project studying 33 Toronto junior high and high schools reported that 49.5 per cent of students surveyed had been bullied online.6
  • Between 4–12 per cent of boys and girls in grades 6 through 10 report having been bullied once a week or more.7
  • For boys, bullying behaviour peaks in grade nine at 47 per cent, while it peaks for girls in grades six, eight and nine at 37 per cent.8
  • In a 2007 survey of 13–15-year-olds, over 70 per cent reported having been bullied online and 44% reported having bullied someone at least once.9
  • One in four students from grades seven to nine in an Alberta study reported experiencing cyberbullying.10
  • Over 80 per cent of the time, bullying happens with peers around 11—and 57 per cent of the time, bullying stops within 10 seconds when a bystander steps in. 12

Trends in bullying and harassment

  • Since 2002, fighting behaviour has increased, especially in grades six to eight. As many as 18 per cent of boys and 8 per cent of girls report having been in four or more fights in the past year.13
  • Boys are more likely to experience direct forms of bullying (physical aggression) while girls experience more indirect forms of bullying including cyberbullying.14
  • Sexual harassment is higher for boys in grades six and seven, but higher for girls in grades nine and ten.15

1 N.S.T.U. Cyberbullying Statistics, “National Issues in Education Poll,” Canadian Teachers’ Federation (2008).

2 Pepler, D. & Craig, W. (2000). Making a difference in bullying (Report #60). Ontario: LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution and Queen’s University.

4Pepler, D. & Craig, W. (2000). Making a difference in bullying (Report #60). Ontario: LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution and Queen’s University.

5 Fekkes, M. Pijpers, F. I. M., & Verloove-Vanhorick, S. P. (2005). Bullying: who does what, when and where? Involvement of children, teachers and parents in bullying behavior. Health Education Research. 20(1):81–91. And Li, Q. (2007a). Bullying in the new playground: Research into cyberbullying and cyber victimization. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 23, 435–454.

6 Faye Mishna et al, “Cyber Bullying Behaviors Among Middle and High School Students,”  American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 80, no. 3 (2010):  362–374.

7 Craig, Wendy M. & McCuaig Edge, Heather. “Bullying and Fighting.” In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. W. Boyce, M. King, & J. Roche (Editors). Ottawa, Ontario: The Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008.

8 Craig, Wendy M. & McCuaig Edge, Heather. “Bullying and Fighting.” In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. W. Boyce, M. King, & J. Roche (Editors). Ottawa, Ontario: The Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008.

9 Lines, Elizabeth. (2007, April). Cyberbullying: Our Kids’ New Reality. Kids Help Phone.

10 Beran T & Li Q, 2005, Cyber-harassment: A study of a new method for an old behavior. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32(3).

11 Pepler, D. & Craig, W. (2000). Making a difference in bullying (Report #60). Ontario: LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution and Queen’s University.

12 Hawkins, D.L, Pepler, D.J., & Craig, W.M. (2001). Naturalistic Observations of Peer Interventions in Bullying. Social Development, 10(4), 512-527.

13 Craig, Wendy M. & McCuaig Edge, Heather. “Bullying and Fighting.” In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. W. Boyce, M. King, & J. Roche (Editors). Ottawa, Ontario: The Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008.

14 Craig, Wendy M. & McCuaig Edge, Heather. “Bullying and Fighting.” In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. W. Boyce, M. King, & J. Roche (Editors). Ottawa, Ontario: The Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008.

15 Craig, Wendy M. & McCuaig Edge, Heather. “Bullying and Fighting.” In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. W. Boyce, M. King, & J. Roche (Editors). Ottawa, Ontario: The Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008.

It’s Time to End the Sideline Sportsanity

Source: Changing the game project –


As soon as I stepped out of my car in the parking lot, I could hear it. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon of travel soccer, but there it was. You know what I’m talking about: that sometimes beautiful, often times excruciating cacophony of sounds that we have come to know as “cheering for our kids” during a typical youth sporting event.

The scene plays out week after week, in gyms and soccer fields, on pool decks and ice rinks. Young children gear up and try their best to play difficult sports that take years to learn. Well-intentioned fans get ready to enthusiastically support these young athletes. Everyone smiles, exchanges pleasantries, and settles in for an idyllic afternoon.

Then, when the whistle blows and the game starts, millions of well-intentioned, loving fans are transformed into something entirely different. There is some kind of invisible force that turns rational, logical people into raving, yelling fanatics totally consumed by every call, and every play. What do they get?


Sportsanity is the temporary insanity brought on by attending youth sports events. It causes normal human beings to yell, coach, insult, and sometimes even fight other adults, all with the best of intentions and in the name of “supporting our kids.” While the exact cause is unknown, possible causes include Fear of Missing Out, Lack of Patience, and the Adultification of Youth Sports.

Of course I am joking. There is no AMA approved illness known as “sportsanity.” We have actually written an article before on what causes it (click here to read it). And of course even our imaginary illness only affects a portion of parents, most of whom are great people and are truly there for the right reasons. Yet at every game, especially involving schools, clubs and youth sports leagues that fail to hold parents and coaches accountable for appropriate sideline behavior, “Sportsanity” rears its ugly head.

There are four destructive manifestations of sportsanity. They are:

“The Official’s Worst Nightmare” – We all know that parent who questions every call, no matter how far away he or she is. The official can do no right in the eyes of this parent. Even the most mundane of calls is questioned openly and loudly. This parent will scream at the official the entire game as if he or she knows the rules better.

The constant screaming at the poor official has a few consequences for the rest of us:

  • You rarely win the argument. It’s a waste of breath, but it definitely has the ability to turn an official against you and your child’s team in a heartbeat.
  • “I love it when my dad yells at the ref” said no kid EVER! I have sat on the bench countless times listening to kids moan because their dad is screaming at the official again. There is nothing more embarrassing.
  • Even if you do reverse a call, to what end? Are we not using sports to teach life skills and important values? What life skill is learned from arguing with authority figures and what value is taught berating another human being? Teach them values by accepting the bad call as part of life and getting beyond the call.
  • Finally, and most importantly, most officials at younger players games are children themselves, just learning how to officiate. Screaming at the ref is akin to screaming at the kids. It’s just a game.

If you know the rules better, grab a whistle and an official’s uniform and join the ranks. Many youth sports organizations lose over 50% of their new officials in the first year because the environment is awful. Parents tell us they miss many of their kids sporting matches, but never miss a match they officiate, as they fear for their child’s safety!

The “UnOfficial” Head Coach – This parent grudgingly pays the person on the player side a nice chunk of change to work with their children, but as soon as the whistle blows, the gloves come off. They are coaching now.

Sure, the coach played college and a little pro, and she has an education degree, multiple licenses, and 15 years of experience coaching the sport at this level, but does she really know as much as the “UnOfficial Coach”? These parents have been watching the game for years!. They question every call the coach makes, scoff at every substitution, and hate it when the “weaker kids” get to play. The team would never lose if it was done their way.

Here are a few issues with this kind of sideline character:

  • It confuses kids, especially if they have a coach who is constantly yelling instructions too. Who are they expected to listen to now? Parents say “listen to your coach”, but now parents are yelling the opposite instructions. The kids stand on the field swiveling from one sideline to the other as if they are watching a tennis match.
  • It undermines the pedagogical process. Children need to learn from people other than their parents, and from the game. When we continually question the coach, we undermine a child’s ability to trust and learn from others. At some point in time, our children will need the wisdom of “the village” to grow up.
  • We steal our child’s independence. We tell them to be independent and think for themselves, but we yell all the answers from the sideline. How are they supposed to become problem-solvers if we won’t let them attempt to solve any problems.
  • We make it about us. It’s their game. It’s their chance to risk, to fall, to get up, and to celebrate when they finally succeed. If we coach from our sideline, we make it about us. Put down the joystick and let them have the game.

I have to repeat myself here. If you think you know better than the coach, or simply cannot control your urge to joystick coach, please feel free to volunteer at your club or take a licensing course and get involved. Once you have the full responsibility of everyone’s child, you tend to better understand the fine balance a coach endures to get it right for every kid on the team.

“The Sniper” – This parent is lethal in moments of high stress when focus and concentration are needed. Many times the parent says very little, except when a player has the opportunity to make the big play. This is when the parent will scream out with a booming voice that echoes across the entire county: “Shoot!” or “Pass!” or “Man On!”

Sounds harmless, right? Imagine being that 10 year old who has just slipped in front of goal and only has the keeper to beat. Her heart is pounding out of her chest, her mind is racing, and she is trying to remember everything she’s been taught.

She’s on the big stage, all eyes on her, and this is the moment of truth – score and be the hero or miss with all eyes on you. Now imagine “The Sniper” screaming “Shoot!” in this moment of high stress. Inevitably she will panic, shoot too early, startle, or simply freeze. The moment has passed before she had a chance to do what SHE wanted to do.

Let the kids make their own decisions. Sometimes they’ll be right, sometimes they’ll be wrong, but at least they are learning, growing, and deciding on their own without sniper shots from the sidelines.

“The Super Cheerleader” – These parents love watching their kids play. They love it so much they can’t help but express their joy. They run up and down the sideline screaming for their children the entire game. Everything they say is positive – like “Go, Go, Go” and “That’s my girl”. So why are they listed here?

I love the enthusiasm from these parents. They just want their child to have unbridled fun. Most of the time they could care less about outcomes. We love the passion, but maybe dial it back a notch? Here is why:

  • Overzealous cheering can easily lead to coaching, and it certainly can distract kids on the field. Sometimes the Super Cheerleader may get a bit too involved with outcomes. When this happens the children may think the only way they will get the cheering is if they score or win. They think their worth is tied to the outcomes that get the loudest cheers.
  • They don’t need you there, in spite of what you think. They know you love them. They work hard at practice. They play at recess, and you are not there. Let the game belong to them too.
  • When your team has a big lead and parents are still Super Cheerleaders it can be a tough pill to swallow for the opposing team. Just remember to put yourself in the shoes of the others and temper your joy just a tad for the sake of the competition.
  • You can get so caught up in the Super Cheerleader role that you don’t realize there is an injury until all eyes are on you.

Be your child’s biggest fan. But remember, our kids need fans, but not super fans.

What can we do? Try this:

“The Balanced Parent”– This group is a bit of an anomaly because they seem immune to sportsanity. They are relaxed. They are quiet observers of the game, there to watch their child have fun and learn without any desire to interfere in the process. They rarely yell, they barely seem emotional at all, and they supportively cheer their child’s effort. They are supportive, but not over the top pushy. They are present. They realize it is a game, not an emergency!

In my years of coaching, I have found that the parents who have played a sport at the highest level are usually the ones who are most relaxed at their kids game. The more they have accomplished, the less they live vicariously through their kids (see LaVar Ball for a prime example of what not to do).

Here is why I love the Balanced Parents:

  • The kids have a healthy, balanced perspective of sports. It’s not the most important thing in their lives, it is another activity that shapes them, creates memories, and draws their family closer. It’s just a game, after all.
  • The atmosphere reflects true competition. Competition means to “strive together”. When the parent sideline is emotionally balanced, the competition on the field is as well, and the players realized they are striving together to get better. Even the opponent is an ally in this development.
  • The coach’s job is easier! If I didn’t have to “address my parents for yelling” or worry about them contradicting what I had been teaching for the last 8 weeks, my life was great. We could focus on playing, learning, letting the kids own the game, and enjoying the experience.”Relaxed parents” allow coaches and players to focus on the experience itself.

These sideline characters are fluid and can change easily. Almost all of us have been a few of these parents at some point during our lives or even during a single season. Embrace the fact you really care about your kid’s sport experience. This is why you are so vocal and I applaud you. But if you can’t channel the “Balanced Parent” at every game, there are ways to help you create a better experience for your child and everyone else.

  • Wear headphones – I coached a player whose dad always wore headphones. He said he was a once high level athlete and a former coach, so the urge to intervene was off the charts. He wore headphones to keep from “sideline coaching”. They also served a second purpose, he said, “I don’t have to listen to all the other parents”.
  • Be the team photographer/videographer – You’ll be too busy finding the perfect shot of everyone’s kid to be yelling. You may even gain an appreciation for all the players on the team. If you film a game and hear your screams on the playback, you will probably never yell again.
  • Carry lollipops – Sounds funny, but effective. If you feel the urge to speak your mind, fill that gaping void with something to keep words from coming out of it. I’ve heard of sports teams assigning ‘lollipop parents’ whose jobs are to hand out lollipops to those who yell.
  • Sit in the corner – literally. The same dad who listened to music would also sit away from everyone in the corner of the field. He could watch the game but not get caught up by the emotions on the field and the even more intense emotions on the sidelines. I am convinced there is a direct correlation between how close you sit to the action and how much you need to intervene during games.
  • Have a yell jar – Pass a jar at games. When you yell, you pay. Use the money to buy all the kids ice cream. You could alter the amounts based on the infraction: yelling instructions is a buck, yelling at the coach is two bucks, berating the ref is a 5 spot, screaming at the kids is a sawbuck.
  • Offer to be the “keeper of the culture”.  My wife played this role very well. She once dealt with a pair of new parents to our club. They were Sniper Parents yelling shoot at every touch of the ball and when the child would mess up, they would bellow “What were you thinking”. She finally marched up to them and asked them if they liked having people yell at them. She said “we don’t yell at 11 year-olds at our club. This is not our culture”. That became a theme for us- keep the culture. We actually had players come to tryouts to join the club that policed its sidelines. If you have strong club values – offer to guard them.
  • Ask your kids what they want you to do, and really listen to what they say. Most kids, when we ask them what they want their parents to say at their games answer reflexively, and loudly: NOTHING!

Nobody’s perfect. We have all yelled. This isn’t about pointing fingers and embarrassing parents. This is more about making all of us realize that the people who suffer the most from our screaming are not just referees, coaches and opponents. They are our own kids!

Do your kids a favor and try one of the above suggestions to “bench” the yelling and put an end to sportsanity once and for all.