By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
We can all start to get excited that winter is hopefully coming to a close and the start of the Spring Season is just around the next sunny morning. Hopefully, like myself and all of you, coaches, players and parents are excited for the season to begin.
Each season brings with it a new beginning, a chance for all coaches and parents to remember that learning is a process, that skill development and fun must be the foundation of the formative years (consider ages 7-15) and while players and teams will always compete, they may not always win.
I ask all the adults reading this to reflect upon any skill set you have mastered or course you have taken. You did not turn up on day 1, take the final test after four hours and learn the skills or facts in a day. NO! It was a process, you studied, tried to learn, worked on applying what you had learned, probably made some mistakes along the way UNTIL AT THE END OF THE JOURNEY, you had mastered the craft.
When you learned to drive it was the same process. None of you were tested on day 1 with a car full of passengers screaming at you to look in the mirror, apply the brake, switch on the indicator and STOP NOW! Imagine if you can, that you were forced to take the test day 1 and pressured in the way described. Do you think that you would have passed the test or enjoyed the learning process?
I get it, America is the land of fast food and we want it now! People keep telling me this when they want to somehow dismiss the learning process and defend the win at all costs and win every game, from five years and up, attitude that is destroying youth sports today.
I am optimistic as you have to have this attitude at the start of a season and a new beginning. In my experience, if coaches spend time reminding parents that learning takes time and that it needs the right environment in which fun must come first, they get it.
As we head towards the first league games I ask every parent and coach to try to do the following this season:
• Remember learning takes time and is best achieved in a stress free environment.
• Praise skills performed and ideas tried.
• Do not stress about winning, the tougher the games the more they will learn.
• Enjoy watching your child as they grow through the developmental process and become a little more “skilled” as the season progresses.
• View mistakes as learning moments and things that will be fixed over time.
We must spend time teaching our youngsters to play before we fixate on the issue of winning. Learning to play is a vital step in learning to win.