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

  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. […]

  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 […]

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