Behavior of visiting North American parents during youth game in Barcelona

I came across an interesting blog post about behavior of visiting North American parents during a couple of youth games in Barcelona.

Most of us probably recognize this kind of behavior from our games? Do the ‘instructions’ sound familiar?

I’m pasting it here with some edits for clarity and brevity:

About three weeks ago we had some visiting teams from North America in the Barcelona area. Two of my sons (2003, 2004) had the opportunity to play a game each against their North American opponents.

English is also not very common in these parts so when we had these visiting teams from North America it was a good excuse to practice my English just in case I am forgetting it.

I quickly got in some conversations with visiting parents. Many had questions as to how we like it here, how is the soccer, how is the coaching, schools and many other questions about Catalonia and Spain and general.

The conversation was good and I learned about the visitors as well, where they were from, what people did as a profession and… good their team was.

I was taken back by the last comment. Perhaps they were good but just surprised how easy the last sentence rolled off their tongue.

As we spoke I was watching both teams warm up similarly with passing, dynamic stretches, possession game etc. As we were approaching the start of the match the parents said to me, “nice talking and meeting you, we will speak later again but we need to get into game mode.”

I just smiled but then thought to myself what the **** is game mode? 🙂.

As the referee brought the captains in for the coin toss these parents went on the sidelines as if they were hired to work as assistant referees.

Typically in Catalonia, most mini stadiums provide seating for all the spectators and this stadium was no different but all the visiting parents lined up on the sidelines.

I know from my time in Canada that this often happened and usually an observant referee would move the parents back to provide some room between the side line and the parents. But there wasn’t much room between the sideline and a wall.

This was what they were used to so perhaps they didn’t know, which was ok, but what happened next was surprising.

As our team was in a team huddle getting ready to begin the match, the opposing team was just standing around quietly waiting and the parents were the ones yelling, “let’s go boys, we can do this, we didn’t come here to lose, let’s goooooo.”

It continued for a few minutes and many of their players would look at their parents. It was very easy and very quick for me to match the player with the parent.

So the game started and both teams were a bit nervous but it brought me back to Canada very fast. The famous call of “send it” rang in my ears like a bad dream of the past and I was not sure to whom they were supposed to “send it” to as no player was in an advanced position.

The “send it” continued for the whole match, then there were some others of my all-time favorites like, “not down the middle”, “kick it out”, “just give it a big boot” but the one that really took the cake was “what the hell are you guys doing?”

It was 5-0 for us after about 8 minutes and it ended up 6-2. The parents were giving instructions the whole match, most of it was wrong, they were all zoned in on their kids and conversations were going back and forth with their kids during the game.

The next day my younger son played their younger group and it was much of the same from their parents. The same instructions were being yelled out, constant dialogue between player and parent. Some scolding from parents to the child like “don’t embarrass me, we travelled all the way to Spain for this”.

This game was a complete disaster on the pitch for the other team.  It ended 17-2, which really was a flattering score for the visitors in all honesty but it showed the huge gap between the two teams.

Many parents involved in the game today, especially in North America, did not grow up in the sport, never played the sport and even those that may have don’t realize that many changes have taken place.

It is important for clubs to educate their parents.

Author: James

Lifelong player and student of the beautiful game in Germany, England, and USA. Volunteer futsal coach and USSF referee.

4 thoughts on “Behavior of visiting North American parents during youth game in Barcelona”

  1. Would love to see clubs sit down their new U8 parents with a bunch of U16 parents, just to talk this through. Unfortunately, parents don’t know what they don’t know. At the very least, review the LOTG so they understand the process.


    1. Yes, in many ways parents at U8-U10 are worse. Parents at seasoned U14-U18 teams, especially the higher-end teams, are much more reasonable. They’ve seen it all over the years and have learned that one incident/one game isn’t important enough. Or maybe just jaded and burned out from all the driving and money? 😉


  2. Good point, Andrew. I don’t think youth clubs take parent education seriously enough here. There is so much to teach that would help with both player development and parental behavior. My blog is trying to help a little…;-).


  3. This is both hilarious, and saddening…

    I’m surprised a team good enough to travel to Spain had parents that behaved this way. In my experience as players/teams improve the parents mellow out, i think due to their improved “education” on soccer. But maybe i’m not seeing the really good teams – perhaps it swimgs back to crazy behaviour!

    I think in general you will find US parents think their kids are far better than they really are. They dont “participate” in soccer other than at their kids games, in the microcosm of their club and division (Silver, Gold, etc). And they demand “winning” teams, so the coaches give them that – leading to teams with 2/3 good players who own the ball 85% of the time, with great dribbling but non-existant passing, receiving, moving to space, spreading the field, etc. Those teams will win against “lesser” teams in the US, but not against teams that play possesion-based, fast-passing oriented teams. As evidenced by their thrashing in Spain…

    That “Send it” comment had me cracking up. I remember an East Bay team we played, whose coach did nothing but yell “Send-it” repeatedly, from the start of the game till the end. Even when there was no one to send it to! Needless to say he was also the coach he was a) late to the game and b) didnt have his player passes!

    Finally, i totally agree with the parent education conclusion. I was just having that exact conversation with a parent and DOC yesterday. 50% of the problem is not setting expectations with both players and parents at the start of the season. That guarantees parents who are frustrated, confused and ultimatley badly behaved.


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