Soccer Parents-Renewed Faith!

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 in Coaching Youth SoccerSoccer ParentU7U8U9

I have to confess that there has been a saying that many of us “professional” soccer coaches have used for decades:

“Give me a team of orphans and I will be a happy coach.”

This is because one of the things that takes away the joy of coaching is problem parents. Parents who know enough to be a big pain in the rear, but not enough to understand why we teach what we teach.

Well, I have to rescind this jab at soccer parents-at least in the case of my teams’ soccer parents. I may also have to start moving the blame towards the coaches and clubs. Probably more blame should be placed on the clubs and professional coaches, but there are a few volunteer coaches out there who still need to open their minds and let go of their egos.

How Did My Teams’ Parents Change my Mind?

I currently coach a U7 team and a U9 team-both in recreational soccer. After 5 seasons of coaching the U7s (Starting at U5) we finally had to move up to the top division at our club (which is the biggest club in Colorado). While we were not bigger or faster than our opponents, we had focused exclusively on dribbling and scoring skills and were getting to the point where our opponents were not giving us a challenge. My girls were aggressive, performing advanced Brazilian style moves to beat players and score goals, and our opponents were beginning to fall way behind us.

We moved up to a division where the girls we play against are not necessarily more skilled or even as skilled as my girls, but they are bigger and being taught WAAAYY too much passing. The end result is that we were getting whomped in a few of the games by scores of 10+ to nothing!

During a few of these “whompings” my ego was creeping in as I was watching these teams who were not coached nearly as well as my team cheer and celebrate goal after goal. I was even letting myself get a little frustrated.

Then I began to notice that my girls were smiling, and coming up to me after their shifts with big smiles saying “did you see what I did coach!?!”

The girls taught/reminded me in that moment me what I had been teaching them for 2+ years, by living up to these standards:

1. Go get the ball and try to score.

2. No “kicking” the ball is allowed-you have to dribble for goal.

3.  We define our success-the score of the game does not.

That last one is very important because even when we were “winning” most of our games by goals I did not let that be how we defined our success. It was always about doing your best to play the game skillfully.

By the end of the season we had outscored 2 of our opponents, and got beaten pretty badly by the other 6 or so teams.

Not only were my girls excited, happy and enthusiastic about the season and the next season, but the parents were completely supportive and happy that their girls were getting such great coaching and enjoying the whole experience.

They weren’t concerned at all about the game scores-just like I taught them for 5 seasons.

This has caused a be paradigm shift in me and I think it should for all coaches and clubs:

If you are not educating the parents on what is the right way to coach for the best child soccer player development then you have no one to blame but yourself when the parents are not supportive.

If you are hung up on winning U5-U7 games and teaching them to pass the ball or “kick it that way” your parents will follow suit.

Of course some people are stubborn and will always be hung up on these things, but we cannot throw all of the parents out with the bathwater.

Trust me, teaching the right thing, and being centered on what is the most important thing for the young players is a lot less stressful than trying to force things upon them to help them score more goals than the other team. There is plenty of time for that stress-and more success will come later if you focus on the right things now.

If you have a parent that does not buy into that then you should consider asking them to not come to the games or suggest they find another team.

If you are a coach and you do not buy into that then you should simply wake up, change your mind or do something else.

Cheers to the parents, cheers to the players for teaching this old coach what is most important.

Thank you for making me even stronger in my convictions.