"Hey, J - Move into space!"
"Time, you've got time."
"Ref - REF! He was offside! Why didn't you call that?"
"MARK YOUR PLAYER!"
This is a paraphrase of instructions overheard at a volume of around 90 decibels recently during Master 12's junior football game in Tauranga. "That's not the coach, is it?" I asked another Pāpāmoa supporter. Odd that the shouter would stand on the sideline among opposition parents to screech commands. "No, the coach is on the other side of the field," someone replied. We came to the conclusion Mr Screamer was a parent with an abundance of adrenaline and a deficit of decorum.
He's not the only offender. We've suffered shrieking at Miss 14's football games, too. A couple of parents who apparently missed their calling as junior sports coaches exercise their vocal chords from opening kick to closing whistle. My daughter is embarrassed if I utter her name, let alone bark orders. Both kids would rather I attend games wearing a gag.
My best solution to quell sideline nerves was to bring a professional-looking camera to games. It's tough to shout while trying to focus a giant zoom lens.
It also pulled me from the action, so I've settled for mobile phone pics and simple messages like, "GO!" "NICE ONE!" and "OH NO!" (the last used sparingly).
To their credit, most team backers I stand with are cheerleaders, not wanna-be trainers. They praise all players' efforts and leave coaching to the coach.
Websites including Footy4kids say the only thing parents need to offer (if they say anything) during a game is general praise such as "Nice job; good shot; unlucky; good idea…"
Overly vocal supporters are distracting. Their directions might run counter to what their coach, the person who has worked the equivalent of a part-time job for little to no remuneration, has taught.
Miss 14 says she feels sorry for players with screaming parents. "It must be so embarrassing."
One of my daughter's teammates has a large dog who often attends matches wearing a fearsome-looking black muzzle. Is this a solution for howlers? A camera would be less constricting.
It could be worse. A friend's daughter plays on a team where another mother was banned from watching games after verbally abusing the coach, players and a parent.
At home and abroad, we've all witnessed or heard of instances where fistfights occur at children's games; a parent berates or physically attacks a coach for not playing his kid; a caregiver belittles his or her player for making a mistake. Referees have reported being trolled online. Adults should know better than to throw tantrums - in person or in cyberspace.
By contrast, shouting commands to your child sounds tame. It still carries consequences.
The Waikato Bay of Plenty Football (WaiBOP) code of conduct states, "Children learn best by example", and parents should respect officials' decisions and teach children to do likewise.
My son's coach passed along 10 Reasons Parents Should Stop Constantly Instructing Young Players in Games (from sports psychology site www.believeperform.com). These include a decrease in autonomy and decision-making skills; reduced creativity and coping skills and increased pressure and anxiety. Children not coached by sideline parents enjoy the game more; will learn from mistakes; and master life skills.
Another reason supporters should stop yelling instructions: it's annoying. We know you're excited. We know you're proud. We know your lungs work. Channel anxiety into something like karaoke before the game. Or silently fast-walk around the field. Save the screaming for the World Cup.
I used to offer the odd sideline prompt when the kids were younger and still picking grass on the pitch. "Look at the ball, Honey!" But my eldest child has been playing football about nine years; she stopped manicuring the field long ago and knows more about the game than I ever will. Years of training for both children have resulted in muscle memory and the ability to read the play. If they're out of position, their coach lets them know.
We're a month from the country's largest sporting tournament, AIMS Games. Thousands of spectators around Tauranga will watch nearly 11,000 intermediate school competitors. It's not about you. It's not all about winning. It's about the kids.
Enjoy the games. Leave coaching to coaches.
*Note: The parent mentioned in the opening scene is not affiliated with Hamilton Wanderers. Their supporters were brilliant.