The more than 300 teams in the Arlington Soccer Association (ASA) will try something different this weekend: being quiet.
The ASA plans to conduct a Silent Soccer Weekend for all but its youngest players and travel teams. Parents and fans will be instructed not to yell or cheer during the kids’ games. Folks can clap for good plays and support their teams in other nonverbal ways. But no screaming at the kids to “wake up” or “get the ball.”
Even the coaches are not supposed to yell anything to the players on the field. The idea is to give the games back to the kids and let the players make their own decisions without a lot of screaming from the sidelines.
I think Silent Soccer Weekend is a great idea. I have coached more than 30 kids teams, and in all the games — not just soccer — there was too much yelling. And I never thought the yelling did any good.
As a coach, I thought practices were like school. They were the place where the kids worked on learning new skills and mastering old ones. The games were more like tests. During the games, kids found out how well they had learned those skills and whether their skills could stand up in competition. The games were not where the kids worked on their skills.
Most kids enjoy hearing cheers after they score a goal or get a hit. The “roar of the crowd” is part of the fun of sports. But too many parents and coaches yell out instructions to kids while they are playing. I’m sure they think they’re helping the players. But I always found that all the yelling confused kids, especially the younger ones.
Years ago, I interviewed Cal Ripken Jr., the Hall of Fame baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles. Ripken told me that his father, longtime Orioles coach Cal Ripken Sr., never approached a player during a game to tell him about a mistake. Instead, Ripken marked it down in a notebook and went to the player the next day to explain what he had done wrong and how he could correct it.
Why? Because Ripken knew from experience that the player would not listen to him during the game. The player would be too upset or embarrassed about striking out or booting a grounder to really hear his coach’s advice. So Ripken waited for a time when the player was ready to listen.
Not bad advice for any coach, player or parent. After all, Coach Ripken’s kid turned out to be a pretty good player.
Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 17 sports books for kids. His next soccer book, “Go for the Goal!” will be published in August.