My daughter Kylie has been playing soccer this Fall, and it’s been a learning experience for both of us. She’s only 6 years old, and has never played any sport before, but she said she wanted to play soccer this year so we signed her up. The kids on her team, both boys and girls, are ages 6-7 and most of them played soccer last year, so she’s a bit behind the curve.

At the first practice i went to, i found myself being a little more vocal than i had intended to be. Kylie was having a great time out there, but she wasn’t ever where she was supposed to be. Additionally, she didn’t seem interested in taking the ball from anyone, which is very nice when you’re playing at home, but kinda defeats the purpose when you’re playing soccer. So naturally, i found myself “loudly encouraging” her with shouts of “KYLIE, GO GET THE BALL!” or “KYLIE GET BACK ON DEFENSE!” or “KYLIE, DONT BE AFRAID TO GRAB A LITTLE JERSEY AND TRIP HIM THE NEXT TIME HE GETS BY YOU, THAT PIECE OF DIRT!”

After the first practice I introduced myself to the coach, and I asked him if he had a problem with me helping to “coach” my daughter from the sidelines. “It’s your kid,” he said, “as long as you’re not contradicting what I’m saying, you can do what you want.”

I thought about that all week. It’s my kid…I’m her dad. And here I am auditioning for the “obnoxious parent yelling from the sideline” role. Between Kylie and my son Parker, I figure I’ve got another dozen years of sideline parenting ahead of me. Perhaps now was the time to decide what type of sideline parent I would be.

The next practice I tried a different approach. I just sat there and watched. When Kylie would run up to the ball and then not kick it, I said nothing. When she would wander all over the field, I said nothing. When she would be responsible for letting the other team score, I said nothing. Honestly, it felt so much better. When Kylie would come off the field, I’d always give her a high-five and tell her how good she was doing, and then maybe give her something to think about the next time she went out there.

But no yelling. No screaming and no yelling.

This weekend is the final saturday of the season. I’m coaching the team because her coach is going to be out of town. It should be a blast. Last week I helped coach practice and one of the girls had a breakaway all alone and suddenly realized her shoe was untied so she just stopped running and tied her shoe while a swarm of kids came over to take the ball. It was hilarious.

Oh and one last thing. During last saturday’s game Kylie actually kicked the ball near the other team’s goal. Towards the goal actually. And as it was rolling towards the net, i saw one of her teammates lining up to kick it right in. He was going to score instead of her. Only he completely whiffed. And the ball kept rolling…and rolling…until it rolled right into the goal! She scored! Her first goal of the season.

Her coach, knowing how far she had come since the beginning of the year, said he got chills when Kylie scored. I opted for tears and a big smile myself.

And yelling. lots of screaming and lots of yelling.