You’re that soccer parent – the one who hops out of bed at 6 AM on a Sunday to cook breakfast before the big game; the one who can shout a seemingly unending string of encouraging instructions from the sidelines; the one that demands justice from the referee whenever he calls a call that you know is flat wrong. You know that your child loves soccer as much as you do, and you’re determined to make sure that they win every game, practice, and drill.
It might be time to admit it: you’re that soccer parent.
Despite your good intentions, your furious attempts to “help” your child achieve during their big game might actually be damaging their love for the sport, as well as their confidence in themselves. Moreover, a too-engaged, angry parent has the potential to tank team morale, and foster ill-will among coaches and parents.
Youth soccer can be a wonderful environment for young athlete to grow as skilled athletes and confident team members – but only if parents leave the instructing to the coach, and remain sources of support for their players.
Here are a few tips on how to stay supportive on the sidelines, and avoid becoming that parent on the field.
Stay calm on the sidelines.
You aren’t the coach. It might feel good, even helpful, to shout guidances from the sideline, but your yelled suggestions can distract and stress your child. You aren’t the coach – so stop instructing from the sidelines! Stick with supportive, positive cheers – and if you find yourself standing at the edge of the sidelines, screaming instructions and feedback at your child as they play, take a step back. In all likelihood, the coach already provided your child with a game strategy. If your suggestions conflicts with the coach’s plan, you’ll not only undermine the coach, but also cause your child stress as they decide which authority to follow.
Quit the post-game play-by-play.
You might be eager to dissect that missed goal after halftime, but your tired player probably won’t be. Good coaches will provide your child with constructive criticism once the game ends, so your comments will only make them feel worse about what they see as mistakes. Be supportive! Tell your child that you enjoyed watching them play, and then turn the subject to something else. If your player wants to analyze the game with you, they can raise the subject themselves.
Don’t argue with the ref or coach.
At the end of the day, soccer is a team sport that offers young athletes a chance to learn how to be part of a positive, productive team environment. If you march over to the coach and demand that your child be given more time, or yell for a ref to rethink what you see as a bad call, you’re undermining that team and detracting from your child’s experience. Moreover, your loud actions will probably embarrass your child in front of their teammates and slow down the game.
Trust the professionals on the field, and support your athlete by taking a step back!
Be encouraging after every game, even if it doesn’t go as you hoped it would. Find positive observations to share with your child about their performance, and support them through the wins and losses. Your child will weather losses better, and will be able to move forward towards improvement without fearing failure.
Check in with your child!
Your child loves soccer, and you want them to have the best possible experience. That’s the reason you hop out of bed on those too-early mornings; why you work so hard to make sure that your child makes it onto the field at every game. You care – and your child knows it. But sometimes, a quick check-in with your child can do wonders for your team efforts.
Ask you child what they want out of the experience. Is it competitive for them? Do they want to get the most goals and play the best games? Or do they just want to play for the fun of it, with the teammates they already know and enjoy playing with? Figure out what your child wants out of the sport, and you’ll be able to make sure that they have the best possible experience!