By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
I am constantly bewildered and amazed at the comments shouted by parents to kids as they play youth soccer games. I have come to a clear and good understanding that all the comments shouted are at some point driven by love. I used to believe it was love for their child that was the driver behind the ridiculous orders shouted. Increasingly, I am aware that it is simply the desire to win that is the driver.
Perhaps losing a game is on occasion good for character development and can be used as a motivator to simply try harder at practice. When I hold parent meetings and ask them the reasons they have their kids play sports, most parents stress the following as being the key reasons:
1. Have fun
2. Learn skills
3. Develop character
The disconnect that occurs between the reasons above and the moment of insanity that leads to parents shouting orders like "Get it out!" is extreme. I would ask that each time parents go to games, they remind themselves of all the good reasons they started their child playing soccer,
To consider the issue from another perspective and be absolutely clear any developmentally-appropriate coach will never ask a kid to launch the ball in fear, close their eyes and just whack it. They will put thinking and player growth first and as such when players are under pressure, they may ask them to either do a move and dribble out of pressure or lift their heads up and try to find a teammate in space to pass to. Notice I say ask – the asking will be done in practice in an attempt to get the player to solve the problem in an intelligent and skill-promoting fashion. In the heated moment in the game, when the coach is silently hoping the same kid under pressure will revert to good soccer habits and produce a moment of skill – THAT’S WHEN YOU HEAR IT !
"Get it out of there!"
I ask all parents watching all games to avoid shouting the list of comments below at any point during their child’s soccer journey, however big (can a youth game really be “big”?)
"Boot it!" (Don’t think, don’t look, just panic)
"Just whack it!" (Don’t think, don’t look, just panic)
"Launch it!" (Don’t think, don’t look, just panic)
"Get it out of there!" (Don’t be composed and use skill in times of pressure as winning is vital)
"Never pass backwards" (Regardless of the pressure and numbers in front of you, it’s all about territory – by the way it is not)
I often get asked to not just point out the problem but rather offer definite solutions. The solution in this case is to offer the following parent behavior plan at youth soccer games
1. Always be positive and applaud and cheer.
2. Appreciate skill in both teams.
3. Avoid any type of confrontation with all.
4. Respect the referee and how difficult that job is.
5. Never offer any type of coaching advice to any player
6. After the game on the car ride home, simply practice the phrase “I enjoyed watching you play today.” You will be surprised at the power this unconditional offering of support has.