Soccer Parent Verbally Abusing Players Is Unacceptable
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Soccer Parent Verbally Abusing Players Is Unacceptable

My daughter arrived home a few minutes ago from a weekend away playing two ECNL games. She walked right into my office with a huge smile on her face. I’m thinking, “Awesome, I can’t wait to hear all about her games.”

“Mom,” she says, “You’ll never believe what a crazy soccer parent did to me during the game.”

I sat right up.

She had my complete attention.

“There was this mom from the other team who was acting crazy all game. She was talking rudely to one of my teammates, calling her number – saying ‘Hey, number ….’ Turns out, I got into a tough tackle with her daughter, it wasn’t a foul or anything – but we both ended up on the ground. Next break in play, I glance towards the sideline – and this woman is flicking me off.

“What?!! Really?” I said…thinking, hoping she’s joking.

But, nope. My daughter looks over to this mother and she is staring right at Cali giving her the finger.

CRAZY.

My daughter, to her credit, looks over at her and says:

“You do realize you’re like - 42, and I’m 15, right?”

I suppose that’s a rather classic response to an unbelievably immature parent.

And, I was just about to laugh it off and tuck it away, deciding to give more attention to my daughter’s witty, confident response than the crazy soccer parent (and giving her a lecture on the power of ignoring someone!)… but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there’s more to be said.

Fan behavior is a global issue at the professional and international level, not just on the sidelines of youth games. I am reminded of a newspaper article I read earlier this year about Nelson Rodriguez, the general manager of the Chicago Fire, and his heroic stand against the fans in the Chicago Fire stadium who were relentlessly yelling an anti-gay chant.

Here’s a link to an article about the stand Mr. Rodriguez was willing to take.

As parents, we need to realize that we must be willing to take a similar stand on our sidelines.

I wasn’t at the game today, so I’m not positive it was the same woman, but I can venture to guess this was the same parent who was screaming non-stop the last time we played this team. Given my daughter’s physical description of her, I assume it was.

My favorite verbal exchange from her from the previous game was when she jumped to her feet when a free kick was called near their 18 and screamed to everyone within earshot: “10 Feet! 10 Feet Ref!! 10 FEEEEEET!”

That was the only time I laughed, though.

Most of the time during that game, I was wishing for earplugs.

She spent the game screaming at the referees, giving a loud and obnoxious play by play, talking rudely to our parents on the sideline, and when someone pleaded with her to stop her relentless and annoying and stress-inducing jeering – she hollered at them, telling them to mind their own business.

After the game I felt like I needed to do something, but I was at a loss.

Would it be appropriate for me to wait for the coach of the other team and mention the behavior to him while he was walking from the fields?

Should I mention something to our coach so he could pass it along to their coach?

In the end, I did nothing.

I wish I had.

Because tonight, over one month later, it’s unconscionable to me that this same woman continues to act out on the sidelines and her behavior has progressively declined. It’s one thing to yell constantly and be annoying, but to verbally abuse the players on the other team – that’s when you have to draw the line.

This behavior must be stopped.

And it’s up to the parents on the sidelines to stop it.

The parents on her team owe it to their children, the referees, my daughter, all the other young women her team will come into contact with – to bring it to the attention of the coach and club and demand that this behavior stop.

IMMEDIATELY.

COMPLETELY.

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The parents need to stand up for the players, band together, go to the coach and tell them it is not acceptable.

If the coach doesn’t take immediate action (and let’s hope they do! I think it’s most likely many are not aware of the problem) the parents must collectively go to the Director of Coaching, Board, Administration – someone with authority…and bring it to their attention so that this behavior is ceased.

IMMEDIATELY.

COMPLETELY.

This parent must be quieted, and in this case because she is verbally abusing the players on the other team, if she doesn’t stop – she must be banned from attending her daughter’s games. If she isn’t willing to stop verbally abusing the other players and insists on attending the games – her daughter must be cut from the club.

Yes, it’s that serious.

What are we teaching our children if we allow a parent to verbally abuse the players on the other team?

By tolerating this behavior and allowing a grown adult to flick off a 15 year old playing on the other team, what are we saying about what we value?

There is no room for this behavior on our sidelines and it’s time for the parents – all parents – to realize that we are the ones who need to make it our responsibility to make it stop.


About the Author Skye Eddy

Founder, SoccerParenting.com Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF “B” License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

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  • Fletcher says:

    Fantastic article. My question though is what to do if you not only have that crazy soccer parent on your team but they choose to loudly disparage their child’s teammates during games and bringing that information to the club leads to nothing.

    • Honestly, you need to either get involved with the club to create policy change, attend a board meeting and talk to the president face to face….if the coach, club and board is not willing to take action to remove a toxic parent who is verbally abusing players…find another club with policies in place. I’d take some video and show it to the coach and Board… It’s time for us parents to take our power back when it comes to our sidelines.

  • Leslie says:

    Hi Skye, I’m sorry that happened to your daughter but it’s awesome your girl had that much grace and resilience. I’d like to say I’m shocked but anyone who has ever watched youth soccer knows this parent behavior is far to common.

    Having been a Team Manager for many years, I routinely had to try to talk down those out of control parents. At one point one of the parents on my team was so out of control that the ref started walking towards us as to eject her (and by process our Coach). All I did was say the women’s name in a “heads-up” sort of tone. This middle aged Homeland Security officer mom then flipped her lid and threatened to take me to the parking lot to “kick my a$$”. A giant scene ensued and the ref turned his back and walked away (disappointing) but luckily the rest of the parents on my team came to my rescue. Bottom line, yes there is risk in standing up, but if one voice can try to take a stand, it can cause an avalanche in the right direction.

  • Kim says:

    My 2 youngest daughters have given up soccer so I am left with memories of youth soccer from my oldest who is playing soccer in college. However when they were playing, there things in place from both club and league to avoid situations like this. We had parents sign waivers. We had a designated “lollipop” mom( usually me) who was in charge of the parents. If someone stepped out of line in regards to what our club or the league deemed was ok for cheering-I stepped in. Yes I had some parents act ignorant and they were dealt with. The problem has become we live in a society were common sense and common courtesy no longer seem to be the rule. I think that clubs and leagues have become lax in enforcing rules or maybe even making them to start with. It is easier to ignore then enforce. Nothing that woman did was acceptable and sadly her daughter is learning from her.

  • jeanie says:

    great article!!!

    I ref various levels of soccer. rec u5 to club u18 and I coach in rec. parents are unbelievable at times. Coaches should be educating parents as well as players. If you have a dancer, they teach parents backstage procedure, audience ettiguete., ect. when recital comes around, coaches should do the same. Clubs need to BACK UP the coaches with parent behavior. It doesnt matter how great the player is……

    When I ref, I will step in if it crosses the line and I notice. To be honest must refs have learned to tune out the parental line. Encourage your daughter to let a ref know the next time. Most expierenced refs will then talk with the coach staff to handle it, if they feel it crosses the line. This crossed the line for me.

    If you are hesitant to ask a parent to behave, I suggest you simple pull out your phone and tape it. (public area) then send it to the league contact for your area with the team and game information.

    • Dbgb says:

      Here’s the rule from our youth soccer league: As a soccer ref, yes – you are focused and tuning out. But it can be pointed out to you by your linesman, by the coach, by a player, by a fan — and if you hear it, see it, experience it, you do have the power to stop the game, warn the fan, and if needed, eject the fan. The game will not continue until that person leaves. If they don’t leave, game over – and the team with the offending fan loses. Period. As a former player and ref, my guess is this person never played the sport or any sport – and has no idea what good sportsman-like behavior is.

    • David says:

      Speaking to players from the other team with negative remarks or actions cannot be tolerated. I have seen too many altercations between parents of teams when this occurs. As a referee, I often have to stop games when the ball is out of play and talk with a coach about parent behaviors toward players on the opposing team. This happens unfortunately at every age. I even had grandparent this past weekend come on the field during an injury at a U12 boys game uninvited, and when I asked him to stay off the field he ignored me and started making comments to a player on the other team. Further, he decided to let me know that this was America and that he could do whatever he wanted. I asked him to leave the park and he told me he would be looking for me in the parking lot.

    • Skye Eddy Bruce says:

      This is a great idea (the video)…thanks!

  • Nicholas says:

    My opinion is that it all starts with the club. If the club can not set expectations of their members and have coaches enforce those expectations our club leaders are failing massively. The education of coaches, players, and parents is the clubs responsibility in my opinion and that’s where things need to change. The director of that club should be attending games secretly and observing that behavior and then making decisions from there.

    I am a Director of a club and would not tolerate this for one second. She would be suspended from a game and her behavior would be monitored by myself; my coach, and my TM. If it continues I would then speak with the family and say we do not tolerate this kind of behavior at our club, here is your player pass and we wish you all the best at another club.

    I also believe the referee’s have a responsibility to hold the coach accountable by at least making them aware as coaches do not hear everything from the other side of the field.

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