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10 Things Soccer Parents Should Know from wining and losing games
I’ve been coaching soccer for many years. I’ve instructed all kinds of players: the uninterested four-year-olds, the unusually talented 10-year-olds, and high school seniors doing their best impression of the Bad News Bears. The winning is always great, and there’s much to be learned from losing, but it’s nowhere near as satisfying as having a player tell you how much fun he’s had.
Especially for the younger players, I’ve always felt a responsibility to create fun and lasting memories…win, lose or draw. Along the way, I’ve been lucky to have tremendous support from the vast majority of parents who’ve trusted me to do the right thing.
But occasionally, coaches encounter troublemaker parents. This can ruin the fun for everybody: players, coaches, and entire teams and families.
So here’s a list of the 10 things that soccer parents (and coaches) should know that can make it fun for everybody.
- Parents speak out of both sides of their mouths. They want their kids to become better players, yet they’re disappointed when they lose. You can’t always have it both ways. A winning team doesn’t guarantee players are being developed, and a losing team doesn’t necessarily mean players are NOT being developed. For children to become better players, they must get playing time at all positions, even ones in which they’re uncomfortable.
- Parents ruin things. What are the first words out of your mouth after practice or a game? If it’s not along the lines of, “Did you have fun?” Or, “Wow, I really like watching you play soccer,” then you’re saying the wrong things. One survey found what kids hate most about soccer is the car ride home with mom or dad. That’s because the first things out of parents’ mouths too often is “How did you lose that game?” or “What was wrong with you out there?”
- You should behave like you’re a guest at a child’s soccer game. It’s the new phrase in soccer circles. Coaches are supposed to make the game fun. (That’s why it’s called a “game.”) But when parents are shouting instruction to the players, complaining about the referee, or moaning about the play of other kids, they’re behaving like they’re at a professional game. At that level, you pay for a ticket, so you’re entitled to speak your mind. At a youth soccer game, please just pull up a chair and enjoy the moment.
- Parents should wear muzzles to games. If your child has the ball, he or she won’t hear what you’re shouting. If he doesn’t have the ball and he hears you, now you’re a distraction. Also, the phrase “Just boot it!” went out of style in the mid 1980s. Cheering for your child’s long kick likely sends a conflicting message, since the odds are that’s not what the coach was teaching the team during the week.
- Don’t email a coach if you’re unhappy. I have yet to meet a parent who can accurately convey tone or emotion electronically. If something’s bothering you, observe the 24-hour rule, then call the coach, or speak to the coach face-to-face privately. That’s what adults do.
- Coaches don’t have the time to coach. We do it because we make the time. If it weren’t for coaches, the team might not exist if nobody else stepped up. If you’re not happy, buy the coach a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts at the end of the season, stick it in a Thank You card, and coach your own team next season.
- The more a coach shouts during games, the greater his ego. A coach who shouts the entire game just wants to win. Shouting during each play makes them dependent on you. And it makes you hoarse. Letting the players figure things out on their own fosters creativity. Yes, they’ll make mistakes. But recovering from mistakes is part of the learning process. After all, it’s part of how they learn in school and it’s how you gain experience at work. Instead of constantly shouting, a coach should have specific pre-game instructions, encouraging words at half-time, and should be scribbling notes about what the team or individual players need to practice during the week.
- Parents are the biggest obstacles to their child’s development. Don’t care to come to practice? Then your kid won’t learn. Kids who come to practice learn through repetition. Not coming to practice will impact your child’s playing time, further hurting his development…and the development of his teammates.
- Your kid is not that good. Even kids on “travel teams” can sometimes secure a spot on the roster just because mom or dad can write a check. That’s often the reason there are two or three travel teams in a single age division.
- All the meaningful work is done at practice. By touching the ball constantly with their feet through dribbling, juggling, passing, turning, receiving and shooting drills during practice, a child learns the basics. Games are merely a way to measure what’s been learned during the week and what still needs improvement, kind of like a math test. Plus, kids touch the ball only a fraction of the time in games that they do in practice.
Finally, here’s a good way to measure a coach: if your child is disappointed when practice is over because the last drill was so much fun, the coach is on the right path.
Now go out there and have fun!