How to Be a Good Soccer Parent…

Posted on Sep 16, 2012 in CoachingCoaching Youth SoccerU7U8U9

How to Be a Good Soccer Parent at Your Child’s Soccer Games

Coach Dan wrote this email this teams parents before the first games this fall, and reproducing it here seemed like the right thing to do…denver-soccer-clinics

“Hey parents,

So I do not want this to come across as a lecture, harsh, condescending, or anything like that, but I do need to establish some ground rules for what you can say or “cannot say” during the games.

Short version:

1-Please do not give any tactical soccer directions to the girls from the sidelines during the game. None. Zilch. Zippo. Even saying “great pass” after the fact is borderline because passing may not have been the right thing to do in that moment, but I do think saying “great pass” or things like “great shot” are much better than giving direction beforehand.

2-Please encourage your daughters with comments like “nice hustle!”, “great effort!”, “great stuff!” or any other positive encouragement.
If you are able to do this you can be proud that you will likely have done a better job parenting than our opponents’ parents.

3-Please be careful (as I will be) not to yell things like “what are you doing!?!”, which, depending on tone, may come across as “why did you do something so stupid!?!”, which none of us would ever say intentionally. I sometimes get caught up in the moment and yell stuff like that and end up regretting it.

Longer version, or the “why” of points “1” & “2”.

First of all, in my past as a parent I have been a great offender of this rule. A few times when my oldest son played for another coach I violated this rule worse than just about anyone I have seen. Aliya’s dad (Geoffrey) who is helping me coach this season has also been a big offender of this rule-so I am sure we both understand the desire to give direction from the sidelines.

As the girls get older and the games become more about passing it is hard NOT to yell things like “pass the ball” or “shoot”, or many other things. However, the girls need encouragement from everyone, but direction only from the coach (and each other).

Even as the coach, I am always trying to teach them to make their own decisions. Soccer is an intelligent game which requires intelligent players who can assess situations, make decisions on their own, make mistakes, have success, learn from their “good” and “bad” choices so they can become “wiser” players. As the girls get older I will say things like “Jenna, tell your midfielders where to mark up.” So the girls learn to communicate with one another without me telling them what to do.

One thing I love about soccer is that this part of the sport also imitates life. I just helped my oldest daughter move into the dorms at CU Boulder last week and if ever there was a time where I recognize the importance of my children needing to grow in their ability to make good decisions on their own it is now. (Due to the fact that she has a very challenging roommate situation, she has already had to make some VERY tough decisions and I am proud to say she is doing well-so far).

Traditional American Sports like Basketball, Baseball and Football are so micromanaged by coaches that that is what we become accustomed to as spectators, parents and coaches. Soccer is different. It is a free flowing game where the players have to make decisions and adjustments on their own with absolutely NO timeouts. I would argue that even our traditional American sports are the most exciting when the unscripted and unexpected occurs. Think of John Elway during a broken play in his prime-those were exciting plays!

Soccer is a game made up of broken plays built on a foundation of skills and principles that were developed before the game started-which is one of the things that makes it so exciting. It is a game about the players, not about the coaches.

While you will hear the coaches give direction during practice and games, you will also hear me move more and more towards “suggesting” things like “LOOK for the pass”, “LOOK for the shot”, “LOOK for the cross” “LOOK for dribble” as much as possible.

I will give very specific direction sometimes because I also believe that when they discover something good with the help of their coach it can be a successful  teaching/learning moment, and with no specific direction it would take a long time to see the team develop (it’s going to take longer than most of us would like anyway). However, nothing beats watching a player “discover” something on their own that works. The reason the Brazilians and others are so great at soccer is because their kids play hours a day 7 days a week with NO coach. This is because the game itself is the greatest teacher. If our kids just played pickup soccer 7 days a week with no coach they would probably be better off than having 2 practices a week and one game-no matter how good the coach is.

Having said that, I have asked Geoffrey to help me get the girls organized on defense and coach the goalkeepers during the game. We will work together on that and see how it goes. He and I have talked about it and will get on the same page so that the girls do not get conflicting messages from us. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than 20+ people giving direction from the sidelines.

Stay positive with your daughter:

If you can, let me be the “bad guy” who says that they need to try harder or put in more effort. I may have to have Geoffrey or Michelle talk to my daughter sometimes because she is my daughter and may not always take me “pushing” her when I think she needs it that well, but she would more likely take it well from someone else. If you think your daughter needs to do something more or better at games tell me about it and let me be the bad guy. Then you get to remain the hero who is always encouraging. If you are like me you won’t able to resist giving strong advice before or after games, but the more you can limit the tough criticism from you and count on me to do it the better off everyone will be. I spoke into my oldest son’s performance in a game for the US Army just a few years ago in what I thought was a very positive and productive manner and he was literally crying within minutes. He is 6’3″, was an Army soccer/USA All Military Soccer stud and had asked me for input!”

As good parents should be, we are so close to our children’s hearts that it is usually much easier for us to bruise them than it is for their soccer coach.”

Thank you all for your continued support!

Sent in September of 2012, by Coach Dan Stratford.