A youth soccer league in Washington, D.C. may have cracked the code to stopping overzealous parents from shouting from the sidelines. The local D.C. Stoddert league held their first-ever “Silent Soccer” event, where parents were allowed to tastefully cheer for their kids or offer silent feedback. By all accounts, it seems to have worked wonderfully.
It wasn’t just parents who were asked to stay quiet during the game. Coaches were also discouraged from shouting directions or giving critiques from the sidelines. They instead were prompted to save their feedback for pre-game, halftime, or post-game. Youth leagues in South Carolina and Colorado have also experimented with silent matches and the feedback from coaches, parents, and most importantly, the players, has been really good.
A statement from DC Stoddert noted that the goal of the silent Saturday was to “let the players enjoy the game of soccer and make decisions on their own,” free from the pressure of their coaches or parents. According to a Washington Post report, many parents said that the silent match was the hardest one to attend all season. But many of the kids heralded the match as the easiest and least stressful of their young careers.
“Players were really forced to communicate more,” said Jennifer Gootman, DC Stoddert’s executive director told the Washington Post. “The best situation was how the coaches set that up and how they told them beforehand that they needed to rely on each other and help each other out more.”
It shouldn’t be a shocker that the players enjoyed a silent match more. Beyond the fact that a lot of athletes probably feel that it would be easier to focus on the game under the totally unrealistic condition of complete silence. Overeager parents have been at least partially responsible for the increased number of ejections in youth sports — especially when it comes to soccer. Disruptive sports parents are without question a force that’s driving the shortage of youth sports officials. That shortage creates more stress for the ref’s and ultimately, less fun for the kids. Once the kid’s stop finding sports fun, the participation numbers start to decline just as they have in recent years.
Hopefully, this type of event can get more popular and maybe, just maybe, participation in youth sports can go up at least once in the next decade.