With over 160 leagues across the country taking part, Silent Support Weekend was undoubtedly an important chance for young children to enjoy the football themselves, with no added pressure from the side-lines.
Onlookers of the grassroots game can often get overexcited whilst watching a game, calling for their team to do certain things, shouting at the young referees, arguing with the opposition manager and more. For most children, this can be an overwhelming experience that has seen thousands of young children fall out of love with the beautiful game, in fear of making a mistake. Silent Support Weekend gave them a chance to experience a game with no added pressure, allowing them to do what they want to do and express themselves on the pitch.
In a guide from The FA to clubs, they explained that players should be allowed to ‘make mistakes’, ‘to make their own decisions’ and those on the touchline should ‘applaud good play from either team’.
Silent Support Weekend launched on the 5 & 6 November. Throughout both days, Derbyshire FA officials were in attendance at Derby Racecourse Playing Fields, observing and gathering feedback on the campaign.
Claire Brandon, Secretary of Derby Junior Football League, said, ‘There’s so much shouting on the sidelines. Parents are telling the children one thing and the manager tells them another. It’s too much for the children.'
Early development in the sport is important, with coaches teaching the fundamentals to the children. With the outside distraction and varying messages, they could potentially lose enthusiasm for the sport.
‘Shouting from the sides makes me feel shaky,’ voiced one young player in attendance.
It’s not, however, just the players that receive these verbal lashings from the sidelines but the referees as well. Speaking to the volunteer referees, they expressed positivity and gratitude in the initiative.
Some coaches were unsure about the campaign, as while they appreciate that the spectators should remain calmer and quieter, they felt as though, as coach, they should be able to address the players and instruct them when they need support. This was particularly apparent for newer teams, who perhaps weren’t used to playing together and needed some guidance at times.
On the other hand, most coaches agreed that the initiative improved the teamwork of their team, as the silence on the touchline enabled them to communicate with each other and talk.
Silent Support Weekend saw many in attendance encouraged for the initiative to return in the future.
Suggestions for potential improvement included that coaches be allowed to speak to their players at an acceptable volume, and some parents suggested that when a goal is scored or good plays are made, verbal encouragement should be allowed.
A few thought-provoking comments made by children at Derby Racecourse:
“Without people shouting, it makes me feel like I can fly down the wing.”
“No one is shouting, and I can just have fun.”
“Football is fun but its better now.”
Derbyshire FA has had its number of participants grow for both the boys and girls. The boys now number around 6000 participants. With the number of participants growing the number of spectators in attendance has also risen.
As supporters of the grassroots game in Derbyshire, we all have a responsibility to make the environment that our children play football in, a supportive, fun and safe one.