The Spirit of the Sideline: A letter to spectators

It is in the nature of competitive sports to be just that. Competitive.

Competition breeds passion, and passion can lead to some strong emotions. As a supporter on the sideline, it is incredibly important that you remember to keep your emotions in check. Soccer is a game of human error, and adjusting to ever-changing circumstances. No referee, player, coach, or parent should be witness to or on the receiving end of any negative emotions that your passion may bring about. It can feel tough when things just aren’t “bouncing” your way. You’ve made sacrifices, driven miles and miles, hours and hours, dealt with unpleasant weather, and when the game doesn’t seem to be treating you/your team fairly, it is important to remember that the most effective way to set a good example for our youth is to do so by modeling good/acceptable behavior. Even the coaches sometimes find themselves speaking out more than they probably should, all while trying their best to stay in check with what is said, as well as when, how, and to whom.

In the end, it comes down to how our athletes perform on the field. It needs to be stressed to our players that no matter the calls (or lack thereof), the game is always decided by what is done on the field. Further, that a loss is only a true loss if the players didn’t leave everything on the field and try their hardest. This is not the age of looking for wins. We must not forget that the most important thing about each season is DEVELOPMENT. Is the team doing better at the end of the season versus the beginning? Are the players getting better as individuals, and as teammates? Are they learning life skills that go beyond the field? Is their comp sports experience helping them into becoming confident, creative, and strong, emotionally, physically, and mentally?

Important things to remember:

Winning is a result of their hard work and effort in practice, and their ability to translate it into games. Losing is a lesson in discovering things to be improved, and opportunity for self and team analysis.

“Games are a forum for players to test their skills and game awareness and should be considered an additional means of development, rather than the objective. Results will always play a role in development as it gives the players a competitive focus in the match. In this environment, there needs to be room for trial and error.”

Referees are human, and as such are guaranteed to make mistakes. As are the spectators, coaches, and players. Respect for the referees and their decisions needs to be modeled as best we can. It can be difficult and at times impossible to keep our collective mouths shut when we see one of our own get absolutely pummeled by an opposing player, or a tight game being decided by what we see as a missed or bad call.

We have to try to remember that the referee(s) only has their physical visual perspective.

Here are two crucial questions to ask yourself before speaking out against a referee’s call/non-call:

Is this call going to affect our player’s future as professional athletes?
Will yelling out loud change it?
Hint: the answer to both is NO. 🙂

Positivity is not always easy to keep at the front of your vocalizations, but we must try our hardest. Remember that the players require positive encouragement from the spectators sideline, and the rest of the bench (coach most certainly included). Additionally, leave the talking about mistakes/negative aspects of the game to the coaches. They are trained in doing so in such a way that creates an environment where reviewing the negatives/mistakes becomes something the athletes should look forward to doing, expressing their individual and team perspectives, and building from there together.

“The long term goal is to prepare the player to successfully recognize and solve the challenges of the game, (and in life beyond the game), on their own and as a team.”


Tauna Aja-Able Competitive Soccer Coach Santa Cruz City Youth Soccer Club


*Quotes credited to USSF’s Best Practices Manual