It may be a simple “I love seeing you play!” but a parent has the power to create lasting memories in a child’s soccer experience. In addition to bringing your kids to practice and cheering them on at games, you can be the difference between a great experience and a not-so-good one.
Here are five insider tips every soccer parent should know to make sure their child has the best possible soccer experience:
1. Let the coach do the coaching.
It’s the coach’s job to develop skills, pick lineups and direct the team. If a parent is yelling “RUN!” or “kick it!” there’s a good chance it may conflict with what the coach has been working on during practice. If your child has the ball, let him make his own decisions, rather than yelling directions at her. All this does is stress out the player and the coach. Soccer is a player’s game and making decisions – and mistakes – is part of building skills. To sum it up, if you’re yelling a verb during a game, you’re probably hurting your child’s soccer development.
2. Winning does not equal player development.
As a parent, you want your child to have fun, become a better soccer player and learn a few life lessons along the way. Unfortunately, some parents only look at a winning team as a sign of a player improving. It’s valuable to understand that a winning team doesn't guarantee that players are developing more skills. U.S. Soccer, the national governing body of most professional, amateur and youth soccer in the United States, has made “development over winning” one of the key pillars of its Zone 1 coaching plan for U-13 players. There's a trade-off to achieve good development. If a coach only worries about winning, players lose the opportunity to try different positions, take risks on the field and they’ll be more worried about winning rather than trying out new techniques. Just let them play!
3. Don’t cause your child to lose their motivation.
One of a child’s biggest motivators to play any sport is to make his/her parents and team proud. If the first words out of your mouth after a practice or game is “you looked so slow out there” or “I can’t believe you missed that shot,” you can watch a player’s motivation sag. Postgame remarks need to be positive, not accusatory or questioning. If you want to analyze a player’s performance, it’s best to start with a positive, offer room to improve and end with a compliment. But just enjoying your child’s company and letting him/her talk about it if they want can be the best post-game ritual of all (we have a colleague who can’t tell you what happened in the games, but 30 years later he still talks about getting snacks with his dad after the game and having a special time together).
4. You can be the biggest asset to your player’s soccer development.
If you're too busy to bring your child to practice, then the child won’t learn and will not form the connection with teammates that the rest of the team is getting. The best way for players to develop skills is through repetition. By making sure they don’t skip practice and encouraging them to play soccer just for fun in their free time, their development as players and the team’s chemistry will soar. Make the time and fall in love with soccer!
5. Volunteer coaches make the time.
Coaches volunteer because they want to help out the team and for the love of the game. Without these coaches, there may not be a team. Yelling “why didn’t you play my son at forward!?” or sending an angry email after a game is not the best way to express yourself to this parent who’s donating his/her time to coach your child. Instead, observe the 24-hour rule (sit on it for 24 hours), then speak to the coach privately (in-person or over the phone) in a calm manner. And there are few things that create better memories for children than having mom or dad volunteer as their coach. You may love it!
Have questions? Email us here.