How to Create a Positive Sport Experience from the Sidelines

About a year ago, I wrote an open letter to parents about the importance of respecting referees. The positive response I received was amazing, not to mention a few nods from some world-class referees (enter school girl squeal here).

Softball ThrowI’d like to think that the treatment of referees is improving (and I really think it is), but I’m also realistic about the fact that there are more parents and spectators than officials, and there always will be. We are but a few figures in sport trying to inspire change.

It’s those people who sit on the sidelines, in my opinion, who have the greatest opportunity to create a positive atmosphere. Parents, grandparents, neighbors and siblings in the stands can up the fun factor for any little athlete by merely minding their behavior. Heck, throw a few cheers the way of the referee and I’d call that a good game.

In all seriousness, let’s be less serious and remember why kids play soccer in the first place. Cheering from the sidelines is even more fun when you greet the game with a positive attitude. Just imagine what that does for the enjoyment of the players.

Here are a few ideas to help keep the sideline space a positive place.

Be Objective

If you feel the need to comment on specific plays within the game, positive reinforcement of well-executed skills (as opposed to calling out all the errors) is a great way to start. Boost player confidence with comments such as:

“Way to find the open space!”

“Great job keeping the ball close!”

“Awesome throw to your teammate!”

Be Encouraging

Soccer Ball ParentsIf you’re less confident about game tactics, try an encouraging cheer. Inspire the team with messages like:

“Keep up the pressure, a goal is coming!”

“Great teamwork everybody!”

Be Lighthearted

Every once in a while, a funny comment or cheer is just what’s needed to ease sideline tension. These silly noises or remarks are not directed at anyone in particular, and are best left to the resident funny mom or dad.

Whatever positive cheer you choose, you can place your bets on the optimism it will create both on and off the field.

Jaime Neefs is a regular contributor to Active for Life, a nonprofit organization committed to helping parents raise happy, healthy, physically literate kids. For more articles like this one, please visit

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