Five reasons why parents should not instruct during games

Parents want the best for their kids, but by constantly instructing them from the sidelines, they could be doing more harm than good.

Here are five reasons why parents should leave the instructing to the coach.

1. It Inhibits Expression And Creativity

In today’s world, it is hard enough for kids to just be themselves, with social media now adding to an already potent mix of peer pressure children feel from a young age. Sport is one release, a respite from the daily realities of having to conform. At least, it should be. By instructing from the sidelines, parents, in trying to help, are simply adding another strand of pressure when sport should be about expression and development.

Let your kid try new things – even if they don’t always come off – without worrying about people-pleasing on the field as well.

2. It Breeds Confusion

If coach Johnson is giving one set of instructions before a match and at half-time, it would be some coincidence if a parent was giving the same advice throughout a match. No, more likely is that a coach is saying one thing and a parent is saying something quite different. The result? Confusion for the child, who wants to please her coach and also her parent.

Confusion breeds anxiety and less enjoyment of the game. Let the coach do the instructing.



3. It Reduces Decision Making Abilities

How is a child meant to progress in sport if he is constantly having decisions made for him? Repeated instructions from the sidelines will reduce his ability to make choices for himself – a crucial skill not just for sport, but life in general.

By interfering on the field of play, a parent is inhibiting the development of a vital life skill which could cost the child as he grows older.

4. Children Will Not Learn From Their Errors

‘You can learn from your mistakes’ said the legendary France striker Thierry Henry. Now, Thierry’s not going to be winning any awards for originality with that quote, but it still rings true. Making mistakes is vital to a child’s development because it will enable her to learn how to improve. If she is constantly being hassled from the sidelines and told, for example, to ‘play it safe’ how will she ever learn to expand her range of passing and become a more creative player, whatever the sport?

Instead, allow a child to experiment and make mistakes – they will soon learn what works and become a better player as a result.

5. It Makes It Less Enjoyable

It’s a cliché, but sport at a young age is about having fun. If the child, through a constant stream of instructions from the sidelines, starts to believe they are involved in a life or death situation, that’s going to inhibit their enjoyment of the sport.

Let the child go out on the field and enjoy themselves without fearing the consequences if they mess up.

Instructions from parents can be well meaning, but can also do more harm than good. If, as a parent, you feel the need to instruct away from games, perhaps set up a private meeting with the coach to ensure you are both on the same page when trying to help your child.

Stewart Coggin on Linkedin
Stewart Coggin
Digital Marketing at Teamer
Stewart has worked in sports media since 2002, initially in journalism and now marketing. After four-and-a-half years on the official Premier League website, he switched to marketing in 2012 with sports coaching providers Green Star Media before moving into the world of 5-a-side football with PlayFootball. He now supports the marketing efforts at Teamer.


  1. Chris Wimmer (@Chris_Wimmer_77) on February 10, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Great article, now if there were just a way to mandate all youths sports parents

    • Emanuel Monteiro on October 28, 2017 at 8:54 pm

      Yes. There is way. It takes courage to implement the solution. The solution is to have a game delegate monitoring parents that five instructions from the sidelines. Every time a parent/relative gives instructions from the sidelines, the son or daughter gets pulled out of the game. If the the son/daughter is not in the game, the kid will stay on the bench for another shift.

  2. Neil on February 12, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    As a coach, I couldn’t agree more with this. I am personally not a fan of coaches barking orders throughout a game too. Give instructions before a game, make adjustments at half time. If the kids aren’t doing as you’ve asked, perhaps the coach needs to look at how effective he/ she is at communicating. I try to keep instructions to an absolute minimum during the game, so that the kids make their own decisions, and continue to enjoy the game. Keep touch line noise to encouragement and congratulations.

    • Tom on March 7, 2017 at 10:03 am

      Totally agree, training is for training and games are for kids to play and use what has been taught. I think too many coaches give too much instruction during a game and the Childrens decision making opportunities are lost

    • Liz on April 18, 2017 at 1:15 pm

      completely agree. Sick of hearing other managers tell kids “no you dont play there, get into midfield” when its 5aside football. Really?! have to remind my parents of this so often when they start going down the route of coaching rather than encouragement and get told “but we arent as bad as some other parents”. No, and I dont want you to be, so thats why I ask you not to do it!

  3. Mark on February 15, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Like Neil mentions above, it isn’t just patents that can add to the confusion, having two coaches constantly contradicting each other during the match also leads to confusion and also worry. My lad asks me to stand on the touch line next to him and talk to him all game …. he also asks me to critique his performance so he can improve. Whilst I get where your coming from, and I don’t advocate parents screaming and balling at kids, I do think that encouragement and talking (like man on, relax etc) can be constructive

  4. governorlez on February 22, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    As a Coach at a Primary School Teaching KS1 & KS2 Also I Have a Son in a U15 Grassroots Team The Element of FUN Has nearly Gone on some Games Because a lot of Parents Make it a Fighting Match Shouting at Kids And also Ref! Some Parent are Ex Players so they Think they have the right ta Direct Abuse at kids and REF Well you don’t OK Leave the Coaching To Us COACHS Let the kids have “”FUN! ;-}

  5. Joe on February 28, 2017 at 10:27 am

    The old saying too many cooks ect can really ring true in the main mostly due to parents contributions but coaches also need to regularly review guidance they give as this can also muddy the waters

  6. Tasesa on March 7, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    I absolutely agreed 100%

  7. Mr Jay Britton on March 9, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    We have too many parents who have started to stand alongside the coaches and instruct the kids which pisses me right off.
    I never gave up my weekends doing the various work on the courses only to have all my decisions rubbished by know it all parents.
    Am so fed up with have tried talking to them but has made no difference so hanging up the boots when this seasons out.
    If they want to do courses i’m 100% behind then but this just undermines everything I have worked for and put my time into.

  8. Rob Andre on March 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Absolutely agree with this.

    Some really good points above. From my point of view I hope the training is fun, informative and helpful towards my young players development and above all enjoyment.

    When they are playing a match, it is their time and they should enjoy it every second of it, win, lose or draw.

  9. James O'Rourke on April 3, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Bad language from parents should not be tolerated.

  10. […] We published a blog a few months ago highlighting the reasons why parents should not instruct from the sidelines at their children’s sports events. […]

    • Steve Farthing on October 28, 2017 at 8:12 am

      Good article and I completely agree. However coaches should look inwards and ask themselves if they are doing the very same things that they are asking parents not to do. In my opinion coaches should encourage the players to communicate on the pitch otherwise the coach can takeover completely and intimidate players. As a coach read the article gain and ask yourself are you any different from the over enthusiastic parent. If you are well done!

  11. Sam on May 11, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Yes there are coaches of other sports and former coaches of teams ,who feel they are an authority or invincible. “No one is as good as them” attitude., eventually the reality hits home when success is achieved despite the perceived ego of these people.

  12. […] there, save your vocal chords for support and let the coach do the coaching. As covered in a recent Teamer blog, hearing multiple voices instructing from the sideline can be overwhelming for a child. Your […]

  13. […] Five reasons why parents should not instruct during games […]

  14. Lachlan Dunbar on August 24, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Thank you, As a mins coach for 12 years I am glad to say I had the same epiphany a few years ago, the RFU Age Grade Rugby has its foundation in letting the children have fun! Articles like yours to help explain to the parents the importance of ‘supporting’ not instructing their children. Awesome thank you!

  15. Roger Soccs on September 6, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    There are always a lot of holier than thou comments whenever this topic is brought up. Truth be told if you don’t want parents interacting with their kid when she’s playing you’d best ask them to either keep schtum regardless of what’s going on on the pitch (which makes for a fascinating day out) or not come at all, and if you don’t want the coaches to be advising the kids during the game ‘so they can just have fun’ then stop calling them coaches, they should just pick a team and then back off. But you’d soon find the appetite for parents going to the games would wane, it’s just human nature, and you’d also find it harder to attract coaches, when already there aren’t enough.

  16. Steve on October 14, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Made me laugh that many comments here continue to criticise the coach. Did many of you mis read the article? It is about parents adding confusion by instructing in the game. Leave this to the coach. Of coure there are different levels of coaches. To me its simple. Mistakes are just an opportunity to develop and grow. A coach should challenge their players to make decisions and understand why things went well or not so well. Ask them questions and allow them to think for themselves and grow. Guidance in the game is absolutely fine, that is how the coach supports the players. Creativity should always be encouraged. Often it is good to get the players to understand the risk v reward in the decisions they make. Parents are great when they encourage the children. Just leave the directions to the coach. Most coaches are happy to discuss things later on and reflect. And remember we are human, we make mistakes. We deal try to encourage a balanced development from technical, tactics, physical, psychological and a social perspective. One players techinical improvement can be just as rewarding as the child who comes out of their shell and grows in confidence. End of the day this is all for the kids and their development.

  17. Jen on October 17, 2017 at 7:34 am

    Ex player parents are the worst. Extra pressure on their children to fulfil their own failed dreams. Old fashioned drills that they completed as children imposed on their children embedding incorrect delivery of a skill that needs specific improvement. I’m married to a head coach that puts so much ‘free time’ (who actually has genuine free time in this busy world) into attending training and coaching sessions from RFU only to be spoken to like fury from some fellow coaches and some parents who constantly contradict his knowledge gained from his courses. I too dislike shouting from the sidelines, and agree coaches should do the coaching before and after the game scenario, however with parents giving contradictory advice which impacts on the team play, it must be very frustrating for coaches having children ignore their direction. I teach myself, and understand the impact on mixed messages to children’s mental health and anxiety levels. They want to please everyone. If you have chosen a team for your child, you have opening decided to allow the coaches to lead their progress. Step back and enjoy watching your child playing the sport of their choice. Most of all let them learn by their own mistakes and praise them when they discuss it with you after a fun game or training session.

    • David O'Leary on November 30, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      Jen – I am truly bewildered by your comments; most pertinently: “Ex player parents are the worst”. Such a sweeping statement.

      On what basis do you prescribe that ex-players are applying “Extra pressure on their children to fulfill their own failed dreams”.

      Some of the ex-player parents that you refer to are now part of my coaching team and would not stand for their children to be imposed by”old fashioned drills”.

      I coach Rugby at a junior level and make sure that the children attending are engaged in the sessions and that they are enjoying what they do. That they gain maximum benefit from the endless portfolio of training drills available on the internet, alongside a supportive RFU Community Coach – all in conjunction with the RFU Coaching Courses that I have attended. The ex player parents that watch are wholly supportive of this process.

      I would urge you to remember that if it wasn’t for the parents in the first place then the children wouldn’t be there to coach.

  18. Becky skinner on October 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Withycombe rfc and Teignmouth rfc have joined forces to hold a silent sideline during the games held on 29th October. Think it will be very interesting to see how it goes down with the players and spectators

  19. Jon S on October 22, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    As a referee of youth football boys & girls it is hugely confusing and annoying. As the only adult in the middle with the players, they have parents in one ear and coaches in the other. Often they don’t know who to listen to and end up freezing or being much less able to affect the game than they would otherwise. As I’ve said to parents before this is not the Nou Camp or Champions league final, it’s a little village park if School field. Let ‘em play……..

  20. David R on October 26, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    The best teacher of the game is the game itself. As a club and High School Coach, Parents need to realize they are at best a distraction for their own kids, and are actually affecting their relationships with overbearing behavior, even with the best of intentions.

  21. Rich on October 27, 2017 at 3:59 am

    Best response I heard that a coach did because a kid’s parent was trying to coach his kid during a soccer natch was that the coach pulled the kid out and told him, Your Dad wants to talk to you. Go over and see what he wants.

  22. Mike Bubbins on October 28, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    I think the author is confusing instructing with criticising. They’re not the same things. Good, helpful, general instruction is absolutely fine. ‘Push up’ ‘Get into space’ etc, are perfectly acceptable. ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Why didn’t you shoot?’ etc, are not.

  23. […] Five reasons why parents should not instruct during games […]

  24. Lonaka on November 5, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Aside from the fact that our US players do not have the individual skills, they are robots playing the game with great athleticism. With Coaches and parents barking out instructions throughout the game it is a wonder why our players are not creative on the field. Players at all level need to play the game without any supervision so they can be creative and daring with their movesz

  25. Lee on February 26, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    This should apply for half of all grassroots coaches too.

  26. Lord H on April 2, 2018 at 11:48 am

    To be honest as a parent, I find other people’s children frustrating (not all of them ) with their lack of commitment and work. Now I do not expect every child to be talented but they should give 100 percent effort. My son gets a bit upset sometimes as he sees it as well and has to cover for them (my son is ten). Also a lot of them give up too easy if things are not going well and do not fight to the end. He finds the RFU non competitive ethos for children difficult and as he also plays football, prefers leagues so you can work to improve (his words).

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