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Creating A Positive Learning Environment for Our Players

Soccer is supposed to be a fun and enjoyable experience for our players. As coaches, we play a huge role in accommodating this aspect of the game. Far too often, coaches will ruin the experience for themselves, their team, the referee, the spectators and — most importantly — the players, by overzealous, inappropriate and uneducated communication (Noise!).

I am sure most of us at some point have experienced the below example as described by Dr. Alan Goldberg of poor sideline behavior whilst attending a youth soccer match:

(Loud adult noise from the sidelines) "Shoot the ball! Kick it! Come on Billy; for God's sake, shoot it!" The 10-year-old who is related to the voice nervously tries to pass the ball to his nearest teammate, but instead, it awkwardly dribbles off the side of his foot out of bounds.

"Billy, what the heck's wrong with you? Are you that stupid? I said shoot it! Do it like I showed you! Now don't be lazy! Move your butt and go get that ball back!"

The boy looks miserable and quickly glances over to the sidelines at his father before he hangs his head and runs after the ball. A few minutes later, an opposing player cleanly tackles Billy and takes the ball away from him. The referee's whistle is silent. The coach explodes at the official:

"Are you blind or what? Where's the foul? How can you not call anything there? That's a yellow card, ref! How can you not see that?"

The referee trots over to the coach and tells him to calm down. The coach doesn't back down.

"I wouldn't be complaining if you just did your job!"

The referee glares at the man and warns him to keep his mouth shut; otherwise, he will have him removed from the game.

Suddenly, it has become very quiet on the field as the game comes to an abrupt halt. Billy and a number of players from both teams stop and watch the altercation. Billy seems to be cringing in embarrassment, looking for a way to disappear….

The reality is, as coaches and mentors of young, impressionable children/players we must set the standards of acceptable behavior from the sidelines.

Below is the FIFA Fair Play Code that all coaches, players and supporters should adhere to as minimum standards of ethics in order for our game to continue to develop.

FIFA Fair Play Code

The FIFA Fair Play Code for soccer encapsulates all of the sporting, moral and ethical principles for which FIFA has always stood and for which it will continue to fight in the future, regardless of the influences and pressures that may be brought to bear.

The 10 golden rules not only serve as a credo for FIFA as world soccer's governing body, but they also reinforce the sense of community and cooperation among the members of the worldwide soccer family.

  1. Play fair
    Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure. Playing fair requires courage and character. It is also more satisfying. Fair play always has its reward, even when the game is lost. Playing fair earns respect, while cheating only brings shame. Remember: it is only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly.
  2. Play to win, but accept defeat with dignity
    Winning is the object of playing any game. Never set out to lose. If you do not play to win, you are cheating your opponents, deceiving those who are watching, and also fooling yourself. Never give up against stronger opponents but never relent against weaker ones. It is an insult to any opponent to play at less than full strength. Play to win, until the final whistle. But remember nobody wins all the time. You win some, you lose some. Learn to lose graciously. Do not seek excuses for defeat. Genuine reasons will always be self-evident. Congratulate the winners with good grace. Do not blame the referee or anyone else. Be determined to do better next time. Good losers earn more respect than bad winners.
  3. Observe the Laws of the Game
    All games need rules to guide them. Without rules, there would be chaos. The rules of soccer are simple and easy to learn. Make sure you learn them; it will help you to understand the game better. Understanding the game better will make you a better player. It is equally important to understand the spirit of the rules. They are designed to make the game fun to play and fun to watch. By sticking to the rules, the game will be more enjoyable.
  4. Respect opponents, teammates, referees, officials and spectators
    Fair Play means respect. Respect is part of our game. Without opponents there can be no game. Everyone has the same rights, including the right to be respected. Teammates are colleagues. Form a team in which all members are equal. Referees are there to maintain discipline and Fair Play. Always accept their decisions without arguing, and help them to enable all participants to have a more enjoyable game. Officials are also part of the game and must be respected accordingly. Spectators give the game atmosphere. They want to see the game played fairly, but must also behave fairly and with respect themselves.
  5. Promote the interests of soccer
    Soccer is the world's greatest game. But it always needs everybody's help to maintain its greatness. Think of soccer's interests before your own. Think how your actions may affect the image of the game. Talk about the positive things in the game. Encourage other people to watch and play fairly. Help others to have as much fun from soccer as you do. Be an ambassador for the game.
  6. Honor those who defend soccer's good reputation
    The good name of soccer has survived because the vast majority of people who love the game are honest and fair. Sometimes somebody does something exceptional that deserves our special recognition. They should be honored and their fine example publicized. This encourages others to act in the same way. Help to promote soccer's image by publicizing its good deeds.
  7. Reject corruption, drugs, racism, violence, gambling and other dangers to our sport
    Soccer's huge popularity sometimes makes it vulnerable to negative outside interests. Watch out for attempts to tempt you into cheating or using drugs. Drugs have no place in soccer, in any other sport or in society as a whole. Say no to drugs. Help to kick racism and bigotry out of soccer. Treat all players and everyone else equally, regardless of their religion, race, sex or national origin. Show zero tolerance for gambling on games in which you participate. It negatively affects your ability to perform and creates the appearance of a conflict of interests. Show that soccer does not want violence, even from your own fans. Soccer is sport, and sport is peace.
  8. Help others to resist corrupting pressures
    You may hear that teammates or other people you know are being tempted to cheat in some way or otherwise engage in behavior deemed unacceptable. They need your help. Do not hesitate to stand by them. Give them the strength to resist. Remind them of their commitment to their teammates and to the game itself. Form a block of solidarity, like a solid defense on the field of play.
  9. Denounce those who attempt to discredit our sport
    Do not be ashamed to stand up to anybody who you are sure is trying to make others cheat or engage in other unacceptable behavior. It is better to expose them and have them removed before they can do any damage. It is equally dishonest to go along with a dishonest act. Do not just say no. Denounce those misguided persons who are trying to spoil our sport before they can persuade somebody else to say yes.
  10. Use soccer to make a better world
    Soccer has an incredible power, which can be used to make this world a better place in which everyone can live. Use this powerful platform to promote peace, equality, health and education for everyone. Make the game better, take it to the world, and you will be fostering a better world.

For more articles like this, or for other valuable coaching resources, visit The Technical Zone at

Washington Youth Soccer

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