(Loud adult noise from the sidelines) “Shoot the ball! Kick it! Come on Billy; for


God’s sake shoot it! (The 10 year old who’s related to the voice nervously tries to


pass the ball to his nearest teammate but instead, it awkwardly dribbles off the


side of his foot out of bounds. The boy’s father is now yelling.) “Billy what the


heck’s wrong with you son? Are you that stupid? I said shoot it! Do it like I


showed you! Now don’t be lazy! Move your butt and go get that ball back! (The


boy looks miserable and quickly glances over to the sidelines at his father before


he hangs his head and runs after the ball. A few minutes later an opposing player


cleanly tackles Billy and takes the ball away from him. The referee’s whistle is


silent. The father explodes at the official.) “Are you blind or what? Where’s the


foul? How can you not call anything there? That’s a yellow card, ref! How can


you not see that? (The referee trots over to the father and tells him to calm down.


The father doesn’t back down). “I wouldn’t be complaining if you just did your


job!” (The referee glares at the man and warns him to keep his mouth shut


otherwise he will have him removed from the game. Suddenly it has become very


quiet on the field as the game comes to an abrupt halt. Billy and a number of


players from both teams stop and watch the altercation. Billy seems to be cringing


in embarrassment, looking for a way to disappear…. Just another FUN day on the


soccer field!)




In theory, soccer is supposed to be an enjoyable “game” organized for and played


by kids. Its’ purpose is to teach game skills, tactics and a love for physical activity.


In addition, and when in the hands of appropriate adults, soccer provides its’


young participants with a whole host of valuable life learning experiences like


hard work as a vehicle for success, teamwork, good sportsmanship, healthy


competition, mastering adversity in the pursuit of a goal and utilizing failure


constructively, all of which are geared towards building self-confidence and


leaving the child feeling better about himself. In theory!




Unfortunately, as the above scenario all too commonly illustrates, the reality of


today’s youth soccer experience is vastly different. Misguided adults, both parents


and coaches are inadvertently and selfishly distracting the child-athlete from


what’s really important and, in the process, killing his/her joy for the sport.


Parents like Billy’s, who get too caught up in the game’s outcome, who pressure


their kids to perform, who are overly critical and demeaning when they make


mistakes, insure that their child will consistently play way below her potential,


seriously jeopardize the parent-child relationship and increase the likelihood that


their child will soon become a sports drop-out statistic.




There’s no question that the vast majority of parents mean well and want their


children to be happy and successful. Towards this end, they are willing to sacrifice


their time, energy and financial resources taxiing their kids to and from practices,


getting them additional training, volunteering for team and club functions and


spending countless hours on the sidelines at tournaments and games.


Unfortunately, far too many parents do not know exactly what they should and


shouldn’t be doing to be the most helpful. Despite having positive intentions and


their child’s best interests at heart, these parents say and do things before, during


and after games that distract the child from focusing on the actual game, increase


his/her anxiety level and, as a consequence, sabotage his/her overall level of play.




So just how important is it for you as a parent that your child has a positive,


enriching experience in this sport? Do you really want your son or daughter to


perform to his/her potential? Are you truly interested in seeing smiles out there


during games instead of tears and unhappiness? If your answer to these questions


is a resounding “YES!” then there are very specific things that you can do as a


parent to make these things happen. Your role in relation to your child’s soccer is


absolutely critical in determining the quality of their experience. If you adopt the


appropriate behaviors and play the right role, then you will ensure that soccer


brings a smile to your child’s face and joy to his heart. If you play the wrong role


and act like Billy’s dad, then you’ll end up making a significant contribution to


your child’s unhappiness and heartache.




So what’s the right role? First and foremost your main “job” is to be your child’s


best fan. You need to be unconditionally supportive. If your child is having a bad


game, then she needs your love and support far more than when she’s playing out


of her mind. After a tough loss or a poor outing she needs you to be positive,


compassionate and loving. Providing feedback on what she did wrong or


expressing your disappointment in her play is NOT what she needs and will only


serve to make a painful situation much worse.




Along these lines, love and support does NOT mean that you coach from the


sidelines. In fact, the VERY WORST THING that you as a parent can do is to


coach” from the sidelines. What’s coaching? Offering “helpful” advice and


strategy before and during the game, telling your child what to do and where to


go, criticizing their play and getting angry with them when they make mistakes


are all examples of off-limit, exceedingly destructive parental behaviors. After


game critiquing is another example of VERY destructive parental coaching


behavior. Understand that you are NOT helping your child when you coach. You


will NOT get them to play better. You are NOT motivating them, even if you


know the game and that’s your intention! On the contrary! Coaching and


critiquing from the sidelines will distract your child from the flow of the game,


make him more nervous, kill his enjoyment and, as a consequence, insure that he


will consistently play badly. In addition, keep in mind that your “helpful” sideline


comments are most often experienced by your child as an embarrassment!


Coaching behaviors are only appropriate from the coaches, NOT the parents.




Instead, parents should smile from the sidelines, cheer for good execution


regardless of which side it comes from, and encourage fair play and good


sportsmanship. This means that you as a parent need to model appropriate,


mature behaviors during the game. Yelling at your child, his teammates or the


opponents is NOT mature, appropriate behavior. Loudly critiquing the officiating


is NOT mature or appropriate either. It is NOT your job to critique the referees.


Regardless of how well you may know this game, your calls are not better than the


referees’. Excuse me, but you are just a tad bit biased in this situation! Loudly


complaining to the ref every time he makes a “bad call” is not only an


embarrassment to your child, but it’s quite selfish on your part. It takes the focus


of the game off of the kids where it belongs and puts it on YOU. Remember,


soccer is about the kids, NOT the adults.




Along these same lines it is NOT appropriate for you to spend your sideline time


grumbling to other parents about your team’s coaches and the playing or tactical


decisions that they make. If you have a problem with the coaches then deal with


them at an appropriate time and place, NOT just before, during or right after a


game. Most coaches are volunteers, are grossly underpaid for their time and are


doing the best job that they know how. What they need from you is your support


and help, NOT your disdain and criticism.




Finally, try to act on the sidelines in a way that would make your son or daughter


proud to have you as a parent. Remember, your child is not the only one that’s


performing during the game. You are also a performer and the quality of their


experience is in your hands. Conduct yourself in such a way that you clearly


communicate to your child and those around you that this is just a game for


children, played by children. That is, you need to keep the proper perspective at


all times. If there are other parents around you who are unable to maintain this


kind of perspective, notify the team’s coach or league officials. It’s not your job to


get in the face of another parent for misbehaving. Let the coach or parent board


educate them at the next parents’ meeting.




Remember, soccer is a wonderful vehicle to help your children learn valuable life


lessons. Do your part to insure that the lessons that they learn are constructive


and positive.


      Are you struggling with a performance difficulty, or consistently underachieving?


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