Silent sports: Parents told not to cheer

Some youth sports teams have gone silent, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Parents and other spectators aren’t allowed to cheer or holler advice. Coaches think the only way to shut up screamers, trash talkers and self-appointed coaches is to shut up everyone.

On a recent silent-game weekend for an Oakland soccer team, 8-year-old Sophia Abelson was playing while her mom and other relatives watched. But she didn’t hear them cheering — because they’d been asked not to.”I felt less inspired,” says Sophia, who plays on the Rockridge Soccer League’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” team.

Her mother, Bibi Jackson, thought the e-mail she’d received before the game, asking all the adults to keep quiet, was a joke. It said that only players would be allowed to speak — and then only on the field.

Karl Hawkins of San Jose, a soccer parent and coach, doesn’t think it’s possible to turn fans into Trappists: “The people you want to control wouldn’t be able to control themselves.”

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  1. It baffles me why children’s sports matches even have adults at them at all. I don’t think the presence of parents adds anything to the children’s experience. I realize some have to stay to provide transportation, but they should just chill, talk with each other, or take a nap.

  2. From the article: “But surprisingly, his proud parents stay mum, silently pumping fists in the air.”

    Should they be allowed to do that? I mean it’s a pretty graphic display, and it’s “fists” you know, which can equally well be used to hit people…

    I think maybe they should be required to just sit on their hands the whole time. For now, at least, I guess they should be allowed to exhibit facial expressions, but if they abuse that privilege, they’ll just have to stay at home and read and email account of the game.

    The right of free speech hardly includes expressing yourself at a sporting event, what were these people thinking?

  3. Why wouldn’t kids sporting events have adults as an audience? This is silly. If parents can’t behave, then they need to be told or banned, but making everyone be quiet is ridiculous.

  4. We had a heckler at my daughter’s middle school volleyball game. For three games straight, she constantly yelled that the refs were out to throw the game for the other team. It doesn’t help that she doesn’t seem to know all the rules either. Another parent who is very happy and cheers a lot is influenced by this lady and starts yelling too. I finally confronted her after a miserable game and asked her to stop. It wasn’t the best exchange and left me angry the rest of the evening. I was really nervous about the next game! The heckler mom was really tame during the next game and spent the entire time cheering for the team rather than yelling at the refs. It was a good game.

  5. Silent games have been around for a while. The soccer league my college student played in tried this one week. I can’t remember why his game was not silent. (I think we opted out.) But it’s always about parents saying stuff they should not. Don’t know if it improves the quality of the sidelines or not. The most vocal parent on my son’s team would always remove himself to an area far away from the refs when they told him to move.

  6. Kids sports never used to have parents as an audience until the high school level, because they were played either at school (intramurals) or in a park after school or during the summer. They were never in the evening, so parents couldn’t attend. Or, of course, they were informal games organized by the kids themsleves (ourselves). Actually I think it was much better. Kids competed at a level and in a way that was comfortable for kids; adult conceptions of competition were not in the mix.

  7. Two stories, one from my high school days, one from later:

    My small central Washington (state) high school sometimes played against teams with players from Indian reservations. I was struck them — and now — by how undemonstrative the kids’ parents were. They went to the games, and watched intently, but didn’t cheer. (In contrast, the players tended to be streaky, suggesting to me that they were very emotional, maybe too emotional about the games.)

    In the late 1960s, Chicago high schools (most of them, all of them?) didn’t allow spectators other than cheerleaders (and perhaps parents). Too worried about gang violence, I suppose. (Incidentally, that seemed to hurt the teams when they competed in the state tournament, since they weren’t used to playing in front of crowds.)

  8. @ Limetree
    “Kids sports never used to have parents as an audience until the high school level, because they were played either at school (intramurals) or in a park after school or during the summer”

    What are you talking about? I played Little League more than 30 years ago, and the stands were full of parents. The same with farm league, tee ball, etc.

  9. PeterW, I guess we were lucky in my region. The games I see in my neighborhood today have more adults present than kids. They feel like a bunch of kids performing for the adults.

  10. That “Trappist” comment was HILARIOUS.

    As a parent, there was this one parent on both of my daughters’ teams that embarrassed the living daylights out of the rest of us every time he or she opened the mouth.

    But to make no noise whatsoever? Over the top.