Parents, coaches keep still and let the youngsters play soccer
Posted by Dean Holden at August 15th, 2013
by Tony Reid, 8 April 2013
DECATUR — A silent spring of muted soccer made for an eerily quiet sunny Sunday at the Midstate Soccer Club fields in Decatur.
Club teams from under 9 years old through high school playing in the Central Illinois Youth Soccer League embraced a new season with games so quiet spectators could hear the birds singing in the background.
It was the same situation at league games all over Central Illinois as teams, and their coaches and spectator parents, took part in a weekend initiative called “Silent Soccer Sunday.” The idea was an experiment to keep the games more civil and maybe learn a few future lessons by cutting out the raucous yelling of coaches and spectators.
Players, on the other hand, were encouraged to talk to each other while everyone else was urged stay mum and give verbal peace a chance.
And it worked, mostly. Some coaches occasionally forgot themselves and had to be reminded by officials, and the odd parent couldn’t face the prospect their voluble verbal admonitions weren’t needed but, overall, it appeared to go smoothly.
Midstate’s director of coaching, Colin Bonner, stood on the sidelines watching a bunch of smiling players on a Midstate under-11 team battling quietly with rivals from Bloomington. He said of all the soccer species, coaches might find silence hardest to deal with. But many were discovering it was a learning experience, too. Bonner said by listening, they could hear which players were taking a leading role by calling out instructions and which team members seemed a little uncertain and needed extra help.
“So they can say ‘OK, he’s a leader, and we can work on that, and maybe this other player needs some more direction and instruction,’ ” Bonner added. “Players are not always going to have coaches and parents telling them to do this or that: At some point, they are going to have to make decisions for themselves.”
Ten-year-old Grace Pakula from Forsyth plays defense and found the silence good and bad. She said quiet off the pitch encouraged those on it to communicate with each other more often: “It’s good because then you have to talk more,” she explained. “And it’s bad because if you don’t know what to do, you can’t look to the sidelines for help.”
Her father, Gary Pakula, is an under-11 girls’ coach whose normal instruction style involves vocal reinforcement. “He yells,” said his daughter. But Pakula, 45, had been doing a heroic job of biting his tongue Sunday and said silence could be golden. “Coaches get carried away sometimes,” he added.