Des Moines, Iowa

Soccer South Soccer Club 

Here's a nice article we found for parents of new soccer players. Hope you enjoy it!

12 Things I Know for Sure

A Youth Soccer Coach’s Notes from the Sidelines

  1. The Number One Question I’m asked by parents of young, new players is: “Why isn’t my kid hungry for the ball out there?” The two emotions I see most on the faces of the younger players who are completely new to soccer are fear and confusion. Think about why for a moment. We spend a lot of time teaching our children to share, be nice, wait in line and take turns. During a soccer match, we suddenly expect these same children to steal the ball, cut in line, and not share the ball with the other team. But if kids learn these “bad” behaviors in the context of healthy assertiveness, competitive play and good sportsmanship, then soccer can be a safe place for them to learn skills -- street smarts, boardroom savvy, survival skills -- that extend far beyond soccer. Spend some time (outside of game day) kicking the ball with your child and in simple language explain that during a game, they get to be different and why.
  2. Cheer Wildly; Don’t Coach – At young ages, kids cannot process multiple commands. At young ages simple directions like: “get the ball” and “run towards the goal” are appropriate. Avoid sequenced directions like: “run and steal the ball and then pass it inside to Katie.” And, above all, avoid telling kids how to do something: “run faster,” “pass left,” “kick it harder.” Wondering what’s appropriate to shout out in support of your child from the sideline? Chris Curran of Anderson Township, Ohio, who has coached and refereed soccer for 12 years, encourages parents to show the same restraint as they show at other school events. "If you wouldn't stand up and start shouting `Sing! Sing it louder, Suzy!' during a school choir concert, you shouldn't spend the whole soccer match screaming, `Kick it! Kick it harder!' "
  3. Teach Problem Solving - Coached positively, soccer is a powerful way to teach good decision-making and to build confidence. The Dutch model of soccer is built entirely around this concept: everything in soccer is a problem to be solved. Unlike some other sports, soccer players cannot be closely coached at game time. Players make hundreds of decisions independently after the starting whistle blows: where to run, when to tackle or shoot, when to dribble versus pass, etc.. Encouraged by coaches & parents, players become creative thinkers and decision makers, smart players who excel individually and as a team.
  4. Never Compare Your Child to Another child. “Why don’t you run as hard as Jenny?” “Look how Thomas gets to the ball first.” Comparing one player to another is not healthy for a child. And I haven’t seen many productive interactions between parents when they begin to compare their kids to others. Give your child an internal framework to measure his or her progress. It’s not about who’s the best out there; it’s about what’s best for each individual child.
  5. The Worst Time to Talk to Your Child about soccer is on the way to or from the game. The most basic “parenting 101” fundamentals are: make your child feel safe and make your child feel loved. This may sound over-the-top lovie-dovie, but thousands of years ago even the Greeks knew that “without a sense of safety there can be no learning.” It takes courage for a kid to show up to a soccer field to play a new sport on a team of kids, some or all they may not know prior to the season. Even as an adult player, I still get pre-game jitters. When parents ask me what they should say to their child on game day, here’s what I suggest: On the way to the game: “I’m looking forward to watching you play” and “I love you” On the way home: “I love you” and “what do you want to eat?”
  6. See You at the Game. If you sign your child up to play soccer, then you should be at the games. Games are at public parks, and parents should be present for that reason alone. But if coming to watch your child’s game is not one of the highlights of your week, then something bigger is wrong. Soccer is a way for families to spend time together, and an opportunity to create an extended family of friends with other players and their families. If you plan on doing the “drop and roll” (dropping your kid off for games instead of watching) for the majority of games or prefer to sit in the car in the parking lot reading the paper instead of cheering wildly on the sideline, then frankly I don’t think our soccer program is a good fit for your family. Youth soccer is coached by unpaid volunteers, and parental support is required, not optional. Every child deserves to have an adult family member or friend rooting for him/her from the sidelines.
  7. Coach the Child First, the Athlete Second. Some believe you should coach the athlete first, and the individual second. That is, teach athletic skills first, and try to connect with the individual second. Maybe this works for adults. But for young players, the opposite is true. If a child knows you care about him, he’ll be much more motivated to learn and excel. The mind is the athlete, the body simply the means it uses to run faster, hit further, or box better. ~ Bryce Courtenay.
  8. The Coach and Parents are Partners. Given the focus required by players at this young age to play the game, players need to know that parents and coaches have a healthy partnership. If you want to coach the players, come to practice and help out. Let’s face it: a natural parental instinct is to be protective. Talking to someone about their child is bound to an emotional exchange. In challenging discussions -- whether a coach has an issue with a parent or parent has an issue with the coach -- always look for communication, not conflict.
  9. A Soccer Season is NOT a Fitness Program. I am hearing more parents tell me that fitness is one of their objectives for their child’s sports experience. A season of soccer is a good supplement to a youth fitness program, but a lousy substitute. If weight and/or fitness are issues for your child, then exercise and diet may be answers. But signing your kid up for a season of soccer is not. One hour of soccer a week won’t get or keep a kid fit. There are no substitutes for daily exercise and good nutrition.
  10. You Can’t Do a “Don’t Do.” If you are going to help coach, give positive instructions. By positive I don’t mean upbeat or cheery; I mean giving instructions that describe action. Call out “kick the ball to the outside” instead of “don’t kick the ball into the middle.” Give instructions that are immediately actionable (“get to the ball first”), not prohibitive (“don’t wait for the ball”).
  11. The Tone is Set at the Top. If there is only one thing I've learned in business, it's this: the tone of any human organization is set at the top. From a little girls’ soccer team, a university, a government, or a company like Enron, the people at the top set the tone. It’s the coach and parents who set the tone for a kids’ sports team. And the tone should be: “We honor the game. We respect the referees and do not question their calls during the match. Above all, we recognize this is a special time in the kids’ lives that cannot be relived.”
  12. They Play To Have Fun - We want to have a positive, supportive atmosphere so that every player has a great experience. Regardless of ability, every member of the team deserves to be treated with encouragement. The most important measure of success in a season is not goals scored or passes made, but whether your child wants to play next season.

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