"Idiot parents, listen up, this is directed at you."

Have you ever experienced sideline aggression from other parents?

A few years ago my son was booted from his under-six soccer team.

It was done very politely – “sidelined” might be a better term for it.

It was delicately suggested that “another team” might suit him better. A team less focused on the sport and more on the fun of it.

It was a semi transparent way of telling me he wasn’t quite good enough. They were on track to win, and having a child who had only kicked the ball a few times in the season (let alone a goal) wasn’t their idea of a successful combination.

Failure to qualify at the age of six.

I wanted to scream “He is six for f***s sake. Stop living out your failed dreams through your kids and back off.” But I didn’t. I smiled and agreed another team was the way to go.

Secretly, I was relived. My son wasn’t a star player and spent more time laughing with his mates than following the score and it simply wasn’t the team for him. The emailed Game Plan Master Document each parent received the night before the under-six grand final cemented it for me.

It was my first glimpse of overly competitive sporting parents and it left me with a bad taste and a desire to protect my son from the harm these methods could bring. The scary thing is that if this is what kindy soccer brings out in parents, can you imagine how grandiose they become in the higher ranks?

Sidelined at the age of six.

Over the weekend the Penrith District Junior Rugby League announced that they will be introducing touchline guards to ensure that they avoid the violence that has marred many junior sporting games in previous years.

The thought behind it by Panthers General Manager Phil Gould is that the presence of touchline guards will provide a safer environment and (hopefully) trigger a rise in participation rates.

"If our security person sees a parent or spectator starting to get a bit aggro, he has the authority to go up to them and say 'Settle down, it's only junior football'. We've found that if we don't have someone to do that the parents can get a bit carried away," he told Fairfax Media.

Former captain of Australia, Brad Fittler, applauded the move saying, "I have clearer memories as a 10-year-old player than I do from representing Australia ... mainly bad ones ... getting chased by parents."

Brad Fittler :"I have clearer memories as a 10-year-old player than I do from representing Australia ... mainly bad ones ... getting chased by parents. “

No wonder many parents – mainly mothers – shudder at the thought of their son or daughter playing rugby league.


It’s a terrible shame that things have come to this but we can’t just focus only on rugby league. We’ve seen in Australia and the UK similar scenes at junior soccer matches.

Last year Football West, the Western Australian brand of Football Australia which looks after junior soccer, introduced a code of conduct … for parents.

It included a ban on national flags and “inappropriate banners, whether written in English or a foreign language” as part of their rules for parents.

Across the world we see a similar picture, the UK Football Association has even had to begin a programme called Soccer Parent to raise standards of behaviour and knowledge in mums and dads.

Geoff Swinnerton, president of Liverpool FA told Sport on Five on the BBC, “We see spitting, swearing, butting, kicking and assaults by parents all the time."

The fact is you can see them at any weekend sporting match. Pacing the sidelines, eyes focused on every step. Focus on the ball son. Follow the ball. Stop staring at the effing clouds. Pay attention! Get 'em get 'em!

In the majority of cases they are just overly enthusiastic (often thoughtless) parents - but it doesn't take much to go too far.

Research has proven that aggressive, competitive parents diminish a child’s enjoyment of a game.

An under-eight match in my son's soccer association last year was called off after a parent abused another over a score. The team given a two week "bye". The children were devastated.

And the thing is, that's who it affects.

Research has proven idiot parents diminish a child’s enjoyment of a game. Fools fighting, swearing, abusing each other over an under 11’s scoreboard will just make many of the under 11’s want out.

A blog post for gives sideline parents some helpful tips in how to keep your focus upon your child’s achievements rather than winning.

"Whether your child’s team wins or loses, ask “why is this a good thing, what did we learn?” If your child makes a mistake, or misses the game winning shot, there is a laundry list of items that can be positive about that experience if you help them frame it correctly. When you start finding the good, you start lowering your expectations of perfection and your fear of the bad. When you start finding the good, you will feel your patience rising and stress level dropping. Most importantly, when you start finding the good in every situation, and help your child do the same, you develop your child’s character, grit, persistence, integrity, gratitude, and more. You reduce fear of failure. You build confidence. And you make your child optimistic, one of the greatest gifts you can give a child, and one of the characteristics of the world’s best athletes.”

Footnote: my son found a new team – more focused upon having fun and learning skills than winning. Last season, he even kicked a winning goal and he is going back this year for more. Go under 8's Roma!

Have you had a bad experience with junior sport?

Want more? Try:

Why kids should play sport.

I am re-thinking my kid's involvement in Saturday sport.