These thoughts are my own…
I am a youth soccer coach at an academy and I have been extremely fortunate during my coaching career to come across some wonderful people, the encouragement, support, and love shown by the majority of parents will restore anybody’s faith in humanity.
Now before I continue I must stress that coaches aren’t perfect, they make mistakes too (SHOCKER!!) but with constant re-evaluation and continuous learning, they won’t be repeated.
I have read a lot of articles recently on the impact a parent standing on the sideline can have on their child’s development, and enjoyment when playing sports. It’s my hope that writing this blog will have a positive impact on a young child’s experience and participation in sports.
1. The Last minute debrief and sideline instructions
If I just give my child that one last tip, then job done and what will ensue will be the perfect performance…WRONG!! This only causes the athlete to think about something other than the task at hand. As a coach that believes fully in “development over results” then these last minute instructions are completely counter productive. What if the coach has been working on a particular topic that past week in training? Defending out of balance for example, and your debrief consists of playing “tiki-taka” soccer?! There’s two people a young athlete never wants to disappoint, that’s you the parent and their coach!! Delivering different instructions from that of the coach will only confuse and negatively impact a child’s performance.
2. I won state cup in high school and had scholarship offers from every university
I get it, back in the day your high school team won state cup and you went on to become a 1st team all-American. Of course you know what you’re talking about, you have all the answers, and your son/daughter will follow in the same foot-steps. As an Englishman coaching in America, playing on the high school or university team did not carry the same significance as it does in the States. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate or respect its importance but one thing I know is that soccer has never been as big as it is right now in the U.S. and the quality of coaching and players have never been as high as they are right now. STOP LIVING THROUGH YOUR CHILD AND LET THEM ENJOY THEIR OWN EXPERIENCES! WE NO LONGER SETTLE PENALTY SHOOTOUTS BY STARTING AT THE HALF WAY LINE WITH THE BALL AND HAVING A ONE ON ONE WITH THE KEEPER.
3. MISTAKES ARE PART OF THE LEARNING PROCESS
This won’t sit well with some people and I doubt they’re still reading this blog, for those continuing thank you, you are helping to positively influence your child’s experience whilst playing sports. Soccer is a chaotic game and no contest is ever played out the same way as the previous one. There are so many variables for a young athlete to try and process whilst out on the field that it’s inevitable that mistakes will happen and this is how not just young athletes but everyone learns. You ever heard the phrase ‘you have to crawl before you can walk’? How about when you where learning to ride a bike? Perfect straight away right? WRONG!! Let your child experience failure and make mistakes! With the right guidance, support, and proper tools to deal with failures, it will greatly benefit them in the future. Don’t berate them and embarrass them in front of their peers or in the car on the way home. It’s a fact that a child will never experience deep learning if they are in an environment where they are fearful and anxious.
4. PlayStation Coaching
I once had to speak to a parent about their conduct on the sideline and the response I got was, “well I have to shout because you don’t say much at all” (cue inner laughter). I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I tried to explain that if I’m constantly shouting and dictating where my player should go, what they should do, and what position they should be in, then how will they learn the game? I believe this stems from personal experience and typical stereotype of how a coach should act. I prefer to keep my points short before the game and then LET THE KIDS PLAY! When I do speak, it’s only to provide guided discovery questions to see if the athlete can find the solution and to motivate or encourage. As one of my favorite coaches Marco Biesla said, “A man with new ideas is a mad man until those ideas triumph.”
When all is said and done one thing I never question is a parents love for their child, as a father myself we all want what’s best for our kids. The idea is that these posts help promote a positive more enriching experience for parents and their young athlete. They won’t be kids forever. Cherish these times!