WASHINGTON - Whether their kids play football, basketball, baseball or soccer, some parents just can’t keep their opinions—and their loud voices—out of the game. It’ll be a different story this weekend in the D.C. area, when about 6,000 kids will play soccer without any unsolicited coaching from their parents on the sidelines.
An event called Silent Soccer is being organized by D.C. Stoddert Soccer, a non-profit travel and recreational soccer club for kids in the Washington, D.C. area. Both boys and girls play in the league, and they range in age from pre-kindergarten to high school.
During Silent Soccer, the organization says coaches will only offer positive, encouraging feedback to players, and parents are being asked not to speak—but instead, to support their kids on the field in non-verbal ways.
Parents and coaches are allowed to cheer for good plays by clapping or whistling. Coaches are asked to limit all feedback during the match, providing coaching at the start of the match, at the half, and when it’s over.
“Give the game back to the kids,” the organization explained in rules posted on their website. “Let the kids make decisions and play without all of the extraneous verbal accompaniment that they usually must endure.
The concept behind Silent Soccer will be explained to players in advance, and they’ll be asked to talk to each other and figure things out among themselves during the match. They’ll be told that their parents will be there for support, but they won’t be saying much.
Similar experiments have been tried in San Francisco, Florida and South Carolina. Justin Wilt, recreational program director at D.C. Stoddert Soccer, said he first tried it a few years ago at a league in Virginia, and he’s been doing it ever since.
“When it’s a problem, it’s really a problem,” Wilt said of the behavior that is sometimes seen on the sidelines.
Wilt and Stefan Fatsis, the girls’ high school soccer commissioner who is also a volunteer coach for the organization, joined Good Day D.C. on Thursday morning to tell us more about the plans for this weekend’s event. Fatsis said it’s important because he’s had multiple experiences where a child has come up to him and complained that the way a coach was behaving on the sidelines was affecting them.
“The whole point of kids playing sports is to try to help them learn to make decisions on their own. Having a coach interfere constantly by shouting instructions at every second of the game, or having parents shout criticism or instructions isn’t helpful at all," Fatsis said.
Watch the full segment above.