Is It Time For the Silent Sideline In Underage Sport?

You don’t expect to come home from watching an underage match stressed out. Yes, you might be hyped up by a close match, or disappointed by a loss (first world problems) but stressed?

And yet that happens so often at underage matches up and down the country. Between parents on the sideline and excitable coaches, many an underage match can be all noise and bad temper. The ref gets verbal abuse, the players are criticised – it can be an exercise in bad temper from the start.

I’ve heard of scuffles on sidelines. I’ve seen young referees receive a torrid time from the sidelines. I’ve seen coaches of underage boys eff and blind when doing drills.


And, yet, how many of us say anything to stop the barracking.

If our children told us teachers were swearing at them in class, we’d complain to the principal and take it further. But, we stay silent on the sideline, not willing to draw aggro on ourselves, lose friendships, or lose a preciously rare volunteer coach, particularly in girls’ sports, where willing parents are thin on the ground.

Zip The Lips

But we all need to realise that these are only children. We need to realise the players can hear all the contributions from the sideline. Our role as parents is to be there in support, not tell our children what to do or berate them in front of their friends. Players know when they’ve mishit the ball or passed it by mistake to the opposition. They don’t need that pointed out to them in full-bore decibels which puts them off and makes another mistake all the more likely…

Silent Sideline

I love this idea of a silent sideline. An interesting article says that children give up sports because it’s not fun anymore, or they don’t own the experience anymore, they’re afraid to make mistakes, they feel disrespected. Those are just some of the reasons 70 per cent of children drop out of organised sport by the age of 13. That’s 70 per cent. Of children. Aged 13. silent sideline

Line up ten children and seven of them will have left sport by the age of 13. Because of overpowering, over-vocal parents and coaches who would probably be horrified if they realised the damage they were doing to a child’s self-esteem.


What’s the solution? Honestly, I think there’s two: the ref needs to note in the referee’s match report the barracking from the sideline aimed either at him/herself if they consider it to be over and above what they feel comfortable with. A referee’s report is the only official document from a match that can be processed by the county board and comments on it are referred to disciplinary procedures once noted. They also need to stop the match and caution people on the sideline who are not behaving in children’s best interest.

Hey, Who’d Be a Referee?

And parents need to use the Children’s Welfare Officer in a club or in a county. If you see something that’s just plain wrong at a match, write to or contact either your club’s CWO if it relates to your own sideline or the county CWO if it relates to the opposition or something the ref has said or done. It is then the CWO’s responsibility to follow through on the issue at club or county level. This is done discreetly without your name being used.

Whilst I’d love to see a silent sideline during matches, while we’re waiting for that to happen, maybe it’s time we stopped being silent collaborators when all the shouting and roaring starts.

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