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Touchline bullies must be silenced

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Jim Spence | 13:52 UK time, Saturday, 28 November 2009

Scottish football needs a 'Secret Shopper' to 'shop' the coaches who shame the game.

The blustering buffoons who rant and rave and foam at the mouth from the sidelines have to be driven out and stripped of their tracksuits if our game is to advance.

They exist at all levels, but particularly in the younger age groups, their bullying, bug-eyed, foul-mouthed tirades, dressed up as motivational coaching, are a damaging disgrace which the SFA must stamp out.

Parents and the players are too frightened to complain about the bully boys, because the consequences are simple and chilling. The rule of the touchline tyrant has always been the same... "My way, or the highway".

Any attempt at reproach or discussion with the type of coach who screams, shouts and generally behaves like a former Eastern bloc dictator, is met with a ferocious response.

training595.jpgThe temerity to challenge their loutish behaviour is usually followed by banishment from the team and ongoing humiliation in front of the rest of the squad.

Players and parents all over Scotland suffer them in silence and seething frustration week in-week out.

SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster has proposed a Secret Shopper system to ensure that fans at SPL grounds are getting value for money. The big supermarkets use it to good effect.

An unknown and anonymous individual does not give the opportunity for the guilty to present a false face. So let's set football's Secret Shoppers to work, prowling the touchlines to drive the unacceptable coaches from the game.

One father told me recently of a well known coach at professional level who publicly rebuked an effort on goal by a 15-year-old player, yelling a tirade of foul language from the sidelines in full hearing of everyone.

That kind of behaviour is out of order with young players at any level, whether it be professional or Sunday league. But the truth is it happens in professional football, junior football, and youth football.

The are a great many good coaches. The patient coaches, the hard-working, dedicated coaches, have nothing to fear. These coaches are creative and educative and impart a sense of worth and fulfilment to young players and parents alike.

The rogue coaches do harm not only to their own players, they do immeasurable damage to the good coaches too, since they get tarred with the same brush.

Those whose only talent is to scream, shout, and destroy, have no place in our game, and if takes the footballing equivalent of a Secret Shopper to ensure that damaged coaching goods are taken off the shelves.

Scottish football will be a much better place for it.


  • Comment number 1.

    I completely agree with your view on touchline bullies. I have a son who plays in the SFL under 19s league and I have watched his confidence and self esteem being gradually eroded throughout the season by a foul mouthed arrogant numpty who seems to believe that a player will improve through negative, usually loud and often very selectively chosen criticism. My son has asked me to say nothing to either the "man" himself or the 1st team coach - who I do not think knows anything about the behaviour as he never attends matches - but I know that he is distraught and his commitment undermined. Jim S I think you and I might know who I am talking about !!

  • Comment number 2.

    Why is there a picture of Jim Jeffries ?

  • Comment number 3.

    As one who has spent many years in the Sunday Boys League in Dundee I can back you up, Jim. There are boys clubs in this city where winning is everything and unless a team is challenging for honours all the time the Manager is likely to be replaced. Such pressure on coaches is passed on to the players.

    It's not only coaches, though. Many parents live out their fantasies through their sons. They may have underachieved when they played so want their son to do better. I've seen players leave the game altogether at a young age because of such "dad" pressure.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm a coach now working in the US. It's the same here, yet the coaches at youth level really know nothing about the game, have never even played it, so it's even worse. Encouragement, positivity and being knowledgeable about the game is the way forward. Winning is not the be all and end all. Look at the Premier League for example. Finishing 17th is now considered a great season for many teams.

  • Comment number 5.

    @4 Hahaha, that's pretty funny. "Finishing 17th is now considered a great season for many teams." How many?

    One, I presume...

  • Comment number 6.

    i was put off playing football a couple years back by both my dad and the coach. he was a nice guy putting in the effort without getting paid or anything, but he put a lot of focus on winning.

    and as for my dad, he made me n my sister walk around NYC all day on a saturday when my relatives were visiting and wanted to go do touristy stuff, and then he shouted at me, a small and undeveloped 12 year old boy, for being too tired to run during my match on the sunday when my legs simply wouldnt go anymore bc of yesterdays work.

    dads should be banned from matches if they dont behave n coaches should be given training in how to motivate and communicate their ideas more effectively

  • Comment number 7.

    yep - agree... ban all the idiots who shout at kids, etc.

  • Comment number 8.


  • Comment number 9.

    5. At 6:39pm on 29 Nov 2009, Auqakuh wrote:
    @4 Hahaha, that's pretty funny. "Finishing 17th is now considered a great season for many teams." How many?

    One, I presume...

    I'd say 4, as presumably the 3 teams that go down would see 17th as better?? surely?

  • Comment number 10.

    The trouble is the most successfull manager in Britain Furgeson is also is the biggest bully, he is role model for every coach to follow. The FA had a chance to make an example of him but bottled it.

  • Comment number 11.

    Completely agree. It's not just football which is affected, it's any team sports - rugby has just as much problems. I remember having a conversation with someone who regularly referreed school matches, and he always thought the worst behaviour was from the touchlines - he once threatened to abandon a match unless a parent left the premises, and frankly the kids just looked embarrassed.

    But as windwild9 points out, the problem is at a higher level too. If top coaches are seen to be successful by ranting and raving at their players, then inevitably there will be those who try to copy with kids. All that will do is force out of the game kids who need a little longer to develop than others, and parents who might be great coaches but who can't stand the abuse.

  • Comment number 12.

    Sadly it's not only the grass roots coaches who need a lesson on how to behave. My sons best mate plays in goal for a SPL Youth team and if the goalkeeping "coach" receives a poor throw out from a keeper he punishes the mistake by blootering the ball 50 - 60 yards in the opposite direction and having the poor 12 year old lad go get it!
    Where is the value in that?

  • Comment number 13.

    Superb piece Jim, well done. I coach Under 11s & witness some dreadful conduct that the boys from some clubs replicate. Frustrated Fergies are indeed something to loathe.

  • Comment number 14.

    Recently in my local park, I heard a parent who was coach of a girls under 12 team! screaming from the touchline at his players, "Come on, we're supposed to be playing a flat back four." He was apoplectic that his instructions were not being carried out by the girls! They probably hadn't a clue or cared what he was on about. What the hell is that all about! Let the kids enjoy playing and developing skills, the tactics can wait! It's parents who are at fault. So many parents want to fantasise that they are premier league managers or coaches!

  • Comment number 15.

    I think the kids "coaches" are simply following the lead of the big club coaches and TV pundits, most problems arise during kids games through abuse levelled at referees.

    As a referee myself i can see a big problem heading to football through ignorance of the laws. The SFA should look at themselves as the process to become a qualified coach for kids is a joke, anyone turning up football minded or not hands over there money and gets a certificate. This priority of getting more coaches qualified is in danger of destroying the game, quality and well trained should be a priority rather than quantity.

    The coaching should also teach these coaches about the laws of the game and what the referee is for.

    Rant over

  • Comment number 16.

    David Lyttle,

    Well said sir!

  • Comment number 17.

    The bullying by coaches is happening by women in the womens game too. I play for a low league footy club where our team loves to be able to get a game every week. Our female coach calls us all the names under the sun as we don't win very often. We know we are not great- I hadn't played football for 20 years until last season. I find her to be a real bully, I used to say things to her last season, try and reason with her, but have given up now and can feel my confidence being affected on the pitch. I may not carry on this season as my aim is to play the best I can and have fun and not to have my self-esteem eroded away. Interesting point about Ferguson. I wish there was more knowledge and education about bullies in our society so we can all learn how to stop them getting positions of power.


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