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Question Number: 28980

The Technical Area 11/17/2014

RE: Rec Under 8

David Lovett of Royal Palm Beach, FL United States asks...

My wife and I are coaching our grandsons U8 rec soccer team. I get very much into our games and do a lot of constructive yelling. ie: go up, go back, set up for a goal kick, etc.. otherwise the kids will be lost as their attention span is nill. I do not yell towards the other teams players or coaches and I never yell demeaning or vulgar words. Everything is positive and upbeat as I give instructions. Even our parents think it's great that I do this to help the kids. Anyway, the ref tells me I can't do this. His says it is a distraction to the other team and it is not allowed. We all truly believe that if we don't direct these young kids they won't have a clue right now at this age. Is it ok to do what I am doing to help my team? I will also throw in that this ref called a foul for us and we were trying to hurry the kick and he blows his whistle to stop the play to tell my player to pull his socks up. He completely took our quick kick advantage away from us. I think he could have told our player to pull his socks up later sometime. Thank you. David

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi David
Thanks for your questions and well done to you and your wife for coaching an U8 team.
Now in respect of your question on coaching that is very much in the opinion of referee. At very young age groups as the referee said very loud coaching can be a distraction to opponents who may understand that the shout is not aimed at them. However well-intentioned some of the shouting may be, the results are not always positive. When adults scream instructions from the sidelines they’re not just invading the children’s playtime, they’re preventing children from learning the game in a natural manner. We expect far to much from children at a very young age. We must not forget, we are talking about children not adults. Also think that the game at this level is about FUN and an adult shouting loud instructions to 8 year olds will not be fun. Enthusiasm is important yet its is a game for very young players that need to explore, make mistake and enjoy themselves. I might recommend to you a book by Horst Wein on Developing Youth Soccer players.
He recommends 3 v 3 for Under 8s to deal with the problems you mention. It is further espoused by John Devine in this video

As regards the sock part referees are advised to ensure that socks are pulled up over shin pads. The pads only work in this manner and there is a safety issue. Perhaps to prevent this happening the players socks should be taped up with insulating tape and the problem does not arise.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi David
first off it is great you and your wife support your family. Tis the number one job of family! Please know that I am in no way trying to insult you or irritate you when I offer advise or opinion. I am as wrong as often as I am right so my comments are not a reflection of your character because in truth I do not really know you or the circumstances well enough to be sure of anything.

In a u-12 girls match still 11 aside I had a situation that arose that might shed some light on what or why the referee may have thought you were affecting your match! Throughout my match a very loud and very supportive parent could be heard across the pitch, screaming positive upbeat outbursts that were not foul or offensive and obviously sincere in his efforts to support the kids! Until when play approached his area of the field he came in tight to the touchlines, Screaming, FIRST TO THE BALL SUZY YOU CAN DO IT! He was positive, upbeat, just very very loud and he scared the bejezus out of the players, from both teams I might add, so badly they came to an abrupt and complete stop and actually backed away as the ball trundled over the touchlines!

This was a parent (not the coach) who created this situation as it carried directly onto the field, just did not realize the impact he was having on the match and on those in close proximity. So I directly intervened and approached the parent. Not something that is recommended by the way! In as positive and with a smile as I managed to coral this parent into a one on one talk! Excuse me sir I appreciate your boundless energy and enthusiasm. I can see you really care for your team but can you see what you just did? Your frenzied antics and your loud booming voice just scared the young ladies to the point they both quite trying to get to the ball and they literally ran the other way ! Your voice is like a super power and we need to refocus it to a better use. How about you take a spot on the touchline and tone it done to some loud cheering only! Like well done or good effort and just let your coach do the tactical stuff The parent apologized profusely I said no problem thanks for understanding! Later his team's coach came over and congratulated me on calming him down and that he was grateful for the intervention. He said I did in 30 seconds what no one in weeks was able to do was to bring this great LOUD parent to reign in his enthusiasm to a more manageable supportive level. Being a great loud parent myself it was easy to be sympathetic knowing how irritated others get at our antics.

Hmm at the u8 level are you playing under the AYSO? Lot of constructive information if you read through the material!

Interesting term constructive yelling? I too am a very vocal, extremely loud individual when I am a paid fan in the stands supporting our national teams! When my enjoyment is in believing with every fibre of my being that my vocal abilities are encouraging and supporting the players. I have cleared out entire sections of supporters who are less than enamoured with my strong projections. However, I tone it down a great deal on the field when kids are involved. The reason? OUR enjoyment is not the focus here, always ask yourself, 'what's good for kids'? Relaying information to your players is within the scope of a coaches mandate and if as you say you are positive, then time appropriate, brief tidbits of encouragement or direction should not be a referee's concern. My point or concern for you here, why is it?

The entire basis for mini soccer is to provide a fun environment to play a game. Faith is a powerful tool in motivating people to achieve! Belief is always worrisome for me as it is taught and nothing in life prepares you for what you are taught to believe to be true but in fact is not!

It is interesting the AYSO actually encourages coaches to coach but tells the sideline parents, and fans to support the game by
Letting the Coaches Coach and Refs Ref.
They go on to advise that what coaches and referees don't need is your help in coaching from the sidelines. So please refrain from coaching during games and practices. Be of good cheer and positive attitude!

Are you reasonable in your demands on a young player's time, energy, enthusiasm and performance on the soccer field?
Did you know the ONLY request the LOTG make regarding a coaches behaviour is the coach and other occupants of the technical area must behave in a responsible manner? I respect you for asking in effect just what is acting in a responsible manner?

Have you investigated sound principles of coaching, growth and child development?
Try this experiment, randomly yell BOO! or I LOVE YOU! at the top of your lungs into the face or ear of your 7 year old at random times when he is concentrating at something else. I can tell you now he will likely jump every time, possibly scream or cry and look at you with a scared or bewildered look. It is not what you said that is being processed, it is the delivery!

Coaching can indeed be a rewarding venture, good intentions aside how you introduce the dissemination of information into the cognitive abilities of 7 year olds there is a greater need to be a teaching coaxer than a loud series of orders. Kids are not lost they are right there in front of you! It is not their attention span is nil it is that their interest level that must be elevated to make them WANT to be involved! Setting a good example and be generous with your praise when it is deserved. Children need a coach they can respect.

A referee right or wrong must act in what they think is in the best interests of the kids at least I hope that would be their mandate. His concern for safety with socks and shinguard should not be an issue but a necessity. I have some concern your quick free kick and irritation at the no doubt young inexperienced referee who like you is new to the experience and who knows where on the learning curve! You are an ADULT and to a tyke or a teenager likely a very imposing figure when loud or angry, at times it is difficult to separate the two!

Applying tactical at this stage to wee ones is counter productive to some extent when there is such brief play time to have fun. Do not misunderstand, developing good habits at an early age is fundamental to becoming a good all around player as they develop. Just be sure they develop as they need to, not necessarily at the pace you set! At this age coaches and referees should be hand in hand in the development of kids playing soccer. To enjoy, be safe and glad to be part of something important! If there are adversarial conditions within youth soccer there is a problem and who is to blame is not the issue, just fix it!

You ask,
Is it ok to do what I am doing to help my team?

You appear to genuinely want to be a good coach, good guy, good granddad for that I respect and admire you but if a referee is asking you not to do something them there is an issue! Either he is over reacting or you are, best sort it out. You must show respect for the referee in front of the kids. Even if you want to strangle the little twerp, you bite the bullet, try to keep your kids on point by remembering as volunteers, as people, perfection is not the norm. Problems and how we deal with them set the standard of tolerance by all those who participate. I recognize there are referees who coaches must endure the same as there are coaches a referee must endure. Respect is indeed a two way mirror! My use of the word twerp maybe ill advised but occasionally it is not wrong!

The league should have representatives to report situations and record concerns. It is why I so ardently support collective mandatory preseason, mid season and end season sit-downs with everyone! Players, coaches, referees, parents, fans, educational teachers, local police, heath care providers! How we reward quality and set up a system to monitor the wellbeing and safety of those participating. To be sure we know and understand the concerns we all have and most importantly what to do when adversity or conflict arises? Are we all on the same side when we agree to disagree? Not just lip service to pie in the sky fair play wishes, words require action to give them substance!
I wish you and your wife well and fun with your grand kids!
PS as coach for wee ones or youth myself I found that I spend the time explaining to those on the touchline and sub in these ones when I want to talk to a player about what is happening on the field. It helps then focus so they feel as part of the match as it is ongoing instead of waiting there to be called up. I urge you to consider the age of those you are coaching and to tread carefully from trying to cram to much too quickly. Take the coaching courses, listen to the kids especially when they are not aware you are! The Respect program only works if those participating, practise!

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

The coach is entitled to give instructions to the team, and when the comments are positive, the referee should not get involved.

That said, it is my opinion that in a rec game for seven year olds, the coach ordinarily should sit down and let the players have fun. My experience is that coaches who are constantly shouting out instructions only frustrate and confuse the players. The kids just don't make the connections that the same instruction (if you do this, then we get that) would work for a U10 player.. Seven year olds need support and encouragement (and snacks). But, the key gift that a coach can give them is the lesson that the game is fun. Practice is the time to teach them, because you can stop and take the time to let them practice a very specific drill. (Their parents, however, often don't understand this. Adults play the game to win, and to win they decide upon and implement a strategy. So, they expect to see concepts that would work for them used during the game.)

But, check it out for yourself. Organize a scrimmage and you be the referee for the entire scrimmage. Ask an assistant coach or other parent to stand at the half way line and shout instructions constantly throughout the game. As you referee, observe how the players are reacting to the shouting. If your kids love it and thrive on it, then continue to do as you always have. But, I think you'll learn something from the experience.

I once did a game in which a 9 year old player cam up to me and asked me: 'Ref, can you tell my dad to shut up.' I smiled because when my son was 10, he came up to me after a game and said. 'Dad, I know you know what you are talking about. But, shut up anyway.'

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