Most well-intentioned parents, coaches and grandparents are found not cheering for their team, but rather, yelling out instructions to the team in regard to the game. This is extremely counter-productive and detrimental for the young soccer players. The instructions can be confusing and actually against what the team’s coach had been working on in practice. The coaches who have taken time to attend training, are aware that the coaching needs to take place at practices and observation with positive, instructional and encouraging comments are to take place at the games. This means that no one, including the coach, should be telling the players who, what, where and how to do each play during the game. As stated by John Oulette, AYSO National Coach and previous National Coaching Advisory Commissioner:
“We don't want to turn the children into parrots waiting for someone to tell them what to do.
Soccer is a free-flowing game for children to enjoy and learn from playing. As an organization,
we discourage sideline instruction not just from parents but also from coaches.”
The majority of people who understand the reasons for Silent Saturdays see its benefit year after year. Here a few of those reasons :
1. To give players a chance to trust their skills and instincts without sideline input, and without concern that their mistakes will be corrected from the sidelines in a game environment.
2. To foster leadership skills among the individual players as they have the unique opportunity of giving instruction on the field.
3. To foster a sense of true teamwork as the players must learn to rely upon one another and communicate with each other accordingly.
4. To remind coaches, parents, and players that PRACTICE is the time for instruction. Games are the showcases for learning.
5. To remind everyone that youth soccer is primarily for the purpose of kids playing, learning and having fun.
Silent Saturdays find silent teams communicating their position on the field or warning a player that there is a “man on”. These weekends also allow spectators to see that the players know what they are doing out on the field. It allows them to make a mistake without comment and to learn from that mistake. After all, this is how they will learn the sport.
As someone who has been parent, coach and now referee, I can state that I have been on the field and outside the touchline finding myself encouraging the players to “talk to each other”. Because of the yelling from the coaches and spectators, many players had become silent with their own teammates. This is detrimental to their development as players. John Oulette also notes:
“During the first stage of soccer development it is essential that the children are allowed to
discover the game on their own terms. High-level coaches constantly complain that players
come through the ranks dependent on instructions because they've been bossed around in
the early stages -- being told where to run and when to pass. They also cite a dearth of truly
creative players -- the ones with the ability to make the unpredictable moves-blaming the lack
of freedom children are afforded during their early years.”
Experience has proven that a team that talks consistently amongst themselves while on the field will be a stronger team then one that is silenced by the crowd. When I am on the field with a team that never communicates amongst themselves, I know that there has been too much coaching from off of the field and that they will be playing with a deficit if playing against a communicating team. One soccer coach’s blog states the following about the use of Silent Saturday in their league:
Let me give a couple of examples that really justified this Silent Saturday.
- The other team was doing a kick-in. Our boys were defending beautifully. One of our boys noticed the other team was about to kick it in with a square pass to his teammate. At the last minute, our boy moved up the field and jumped in front of the kick. He took the ball, dribbled, and scored. If the parents of the other team had been allowed to coach their player on where to kick it, the intelligent play of our player would have gone unrewarded. We need to encourage our players to think and adjust on their own. When parents impose their adult intelligence to direct their player and thus outwit our 6 year old boy, that's just plain not fair. I was loving Silent Saturday giving our boy the opportunity to use his wits to score a goal (and he's not a prolific scorer)
- We had a player doing a kick-in who didn't know where to kick it. His father did a great job holding his tongue and letting his son play. He kicked it right out in front of our own goal and the other team scored. How is this a "good thing" you ask? Well I told a player on the bench that he needed to help his teammates when he saw them about to do something wrong. Sure enough, later in the game, the same situation popped up and what happened? The boy I'd spoken to on the bench took a leadership role and talked to his teammate about the correct direction to kick the ball. This moment of leadership would not have occurred if the parents or coaches had taken it upon themselves to correct the error before the player had a chance to speak.
I have spoken with many coaches, parents and referees over the years that we have had these Silent Saturdays and the overwhelming feeling is positive toward the tradition. The players on the field have also made comments about how nice it is to have a quieter game. They can become very confused when several people are telling them several different things to do while dribbling the ball. The coach blogger also stated:
Several coaches commented on how well their players communicated on the field,
something that seldom gets noticed in all of the extra noise of typical game days.
The feedback that we got directly from the kids was very positive. Many said they
could concentrate more; some did say that they liked not having their parents yell
at them if they "messed up. They liked being able to make decisions (who takes the
ball out; who does the goal kick, etc.). "
One thing that definitely needs to be understood is that we are not asking you NOT to cheer for your players. We are simply asking you to do so in a silent manner. The first year we held Silent Saturday had many teams with spectators and coaches who had made signs to hold up for good plays. Some were addressed to specific children with saying such as “Go, Jimmy” or “Great play, Green Machine!”. Over the years, I have seen these signs at fields from kindergarten to high school fields. The coach blogger mentioned this aspect as well by saying:
“The kids were happy that their parents made signs and banners with their names on
them or wore t-shirts with their pictures.”
So, sometime this week, stop at the store and pick up some poster board and markers. Talk to your player about what they do best on the field and make a special sign for them. Decide to use the gesture of hands up in the air and waving to celebrate a goal. Use your imagination to think of silent ways to encourage your player and most of all make it fun for you and your player!
Please go the following link to see the complete article by John Oulette.
Other recommended resources are as follows:
Double Goal Coach by Jim Thompson
Just Let The Kids Play By Bob Bigelow
Whose Game Is It Anyway? By Richard Ginsberg, et. al.
Regional Director of Referee Assessment
Area Referee Administrator
15 Year AYSO Volunteer