By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
Typically moving the goalposts is a phrase full of negative connotations as someone has set you a goal or target that changes in the middle of completion. I am going to ask that you open your mind and remove all negative implications of the phrase and actively go about moving the goalposts within the culture of youth soccer and move them quickly.
Youth sport has lost its way in respect to the highly competitive atmosphere that surrounds every game, I mean from the age of 5 years and up. No age group or sport is given a respite and success is viewed only by wins, losses and goals scored. This over-competitive parent-induced environment is unhealthy and leads to harmful and disturbing behavior.
Different TV channels, noticeably ABC and NBC, have started to highlight both the frequency and extreme negativity of youth parents at sporting events. Whether it be fist fights between mothers at football games, fathers at soccer games, a dad screaming at a 6-year-old at a baseball game to bring him to tears or a mother making her kid get out of the car and walk two miles home due to her disappointment with a game performance. What should be obvious is the need to STOP and consider what sport is really about.
The reasons why kids want to play are both well-researched and well-reported (perhaps we are not listening). Kids Under-12 primarily play for the following reasons
1. To have FUN.
2. To be with their friends.
3. To learn the skills of the game.
4. To wear the stuff.
I understand the parent need to feel like their time is well-invested and that this need leads to a desire for SUCCESS. What is obvious and essential is that defining success by wins and losses at a young age quickly creates a negative playing environment that is charged with so much pressure that our players are leaving the game.
Let’s judge success by the following:
1. Techniques mastered-ask your coach/ trainer what techniques they are working on this season and try to look at the game through how well they are improving in these areas.
2. How many questions do the coaches ask of your child and consequently how many times in a game are they getting to think and enjoy making decisions.
3. Do they leave each game with a smile knowing that they gave their best?
4. Tactically do they appear to understand at age 7 and up that they should try to keep the ball and that the game has different phases, when we have the ball and when we don’t?
I am not suggesting that parents quiz their children over the suggestions above, I am rather hoping that by presenting parents with a different agenda by which to view a game we can somehow turn down the competitive cauldron that our youngsters play within. Perhaps if we are all busy counting passes in a row, two player combinations completed and skills preformed we will all be too busy to scream the next order or pick the next fight.
Let’s get busy moving the goalposts.