The sound of parents and coaches cheering on their kids is a major part of youth football. But when Northumberland FA carried out a survey among its youngest players, 60% of 6-9 year olds said they’d witnessed poor behaviour from adults at matches. Of these, 62% had witnessed adults and coaches shouting, while 37% had witnessed swearing.
When we asked them how this made them feel, they said they felt sad, scared and upset.
As a result, Northumberland FA has joined forces with Northumberland Football Leagues and Tynedale Mini Soccer Leagues to trial the Silent Weekend in a bid to make football safe and fun and encourage positive behaviour from adults.
For one weekend, all coaches and spectators will be asked to use no verbal communication, although they’ll still be able to applaud good play and goals. Everyone will be asked for their opinions, and the results will be used to help us plan future initiatives.
David Jones, Northumberland FA’s Head of Participation, said: “We have listened to what young players told us in our Youth Survey and have decided to trial the Silent Weekend. We hope it will raise awareness around what children have identified themselves as negative aspects of playing football and encourage adults to create a child centred environment that allows children to play with freedom, making their own decisions and practice what they have learnt from their coaches without risk of judgement that puts them off trying something again.”
The Silent Weekend will involve matches at all the Northumberland League’s central venues, where young players learn to play in a supported, family friendly environment. All of the Tynedale League matches at their clubs’ home venues will be included too.
Ian Coates, General Manager of Northumberland Football Leagues said: “We’re pleased to be working with Northumberland FA on this. We’re committed to promoting a positive footballing experience for young players and we really hope everyone will get behind this and help us to make it a success.
Paula Collis from Tynedale Mini Soccer League added: “We hope that it’ll make all adults stop and think about their behaviour. We all love to support our kids at football but sometimes reactions from the sidelines are unacceptable.”
Representatives from the leagues and Northumnerland FA will be on hand at all the matches to provide support, answer questions and get feedback from everyone involved, which will help us to continue our work to protect young players.
David added: “We’ve already had a great response from coaches and spectators about the idea. It’s important that we listen to our youngsters and try out different way to tackle the issues that affect them.
“We know that there’ll be lots of questions about how the weekend will work, so we’ve created a downloadable guide to help. Coaches can still provide guidance before their matches and at half time, and referees aren’t banned from speaking so they can help guide players on the pitch.
“As well as promoting positive behaviour from adults, we hope the Silent Weekend will allows kids to make their own decisions and play the game with freedom, without pressure or over-emphasis on winning at all costs.”
Information and guidelines about the event are available at: