How not to be a football parent

Travel to any junior football match in the UK today and you always see the same thing; parents on the sidelines vociferously exhorting their children (usually, but not exclusively boys) onto ever greater efforts. These parents are too loud, too competitive, rude as they often berate the referee and they’re sapping all the joy from the beautiful game – so determined are they to live their lives as they wish they had been vicariously via their offspring.

Please don’t become one of them.

It’s as if playing the sport has become a chore for all involved rather than the beautiful joyous game it can and should be. That’s not the same as saying the children don’t need to give it their all, jump higher, tackle harder or shoot harder. Instead, it’s saying they should be doing this out of a genuine love for the game and its competitive nature – rather than trying to please Mum and/or Dad on the touchline.

Football is, unequivocally, a very competitive game. It’s also highly lucrative. The play-off final game at the end of the season to decide which Championship side progresses to the English Premier League is now said to be worth upwards of £80 million. The prize for getting to the top, then, is enormous and as things stand in the

Championship betting, it looks like Derby County, Norwich, Watford, Middlesbrough and/or Wolves will be up there this year.

So it’s understandable that parents want their kids to succeed; the rewards for successful players reaching the top of the English game are enormous. But the irony is that stripping the love out of the game on your children’s behalves by trying to tell them what to do, shouting at the ref, shouting at opposing players, and urging your children forward will all combine to make them lesser players.

So the converse is also true; encouraging your child to learn skilful techniques, to be able to keep possession in creative ways with their friends rather than worrying continually about scoring, and generally encouraging them to love the game will pay huge dividends in terms of the players they’ll eventually become. “Joy through work” is the right kind of philosophy here.

Anyway, if you recognise any of the traits mentioned here in yourself whilst you’re watching your own children playing football – then please desist at once; you’re spoiling the beautiful game for your beautiful child – no matter how young or old s/he is.

And if you’re going to games with the best of intentions not to get too worked up – but find you just can’t manage to achieve that in the heat of the moment – then, as the song says, “please don’t go!”

This is serious advice. Drop your child off at the game, go and do something else for the duration, then ask him or her how they went on at the end in an interested, encouraging and positive manner. This will help them become better players and will help you stay calm. Please don’t be the archetypal UK football overbearing parent.

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