There’s nothing that parents want more than to successfully support and enjoy their child’s soccer, or any sport or endeavor. But as those who have raised a soccer player know, it’s often a bigger job than you think. There are a lot of ups and downs, and it’s a big responsibility. After all, the influence and impact you have on your player--both in soccer and in life--is enormous.
All soccer parents want to “get it right.” That’s why it’s good to know some of the tried and true practices, backed up by research, you can use to best support your player. Below are some tips on maximizing your role as a soccer parent.
It’s also important to view your role through the lens of The Soccer/Life Connection.
1. Set a Good Example
You don’t have to have been a soccer player in order to help your player. Whether through your job, your gym workouts, or your hobby, you are communicating good habits and values, such as self-discipline, commitment, how to overcome obstacles, and take pride in achievement. Be guided by the fact that children also model the attitudes of their parents—such as good sportsmanship. Honesty and accountability are very important. With the Techne app, in which self-reporting depends on the honor system, we encourage parents to make sure their player is doing the work they claim and doing it in a way that is beneficial to their development. It is important that they train with focus and intensity, not just get them to the top of our Leaderboard, and this is something you can help monitor. The same goes for any training your player is doing on their own -- you can help them to understand the value of how they work when no one is watching.
2. Emphasize Positive Attitude and Behavior
While respecting coaches, teammates and opponents is fundamental, there is even more to learn from team sports. Professional player Matt Turner was recently a guest on the Techne Futbol Instagram Live chat. He emphasized his career-long focus on first and foremost being a team player and doing everything he can to support his team—even while sitting the bench. His attitude is a hallmark of his success, and sets a remarkable example for us all. Players’ attitudes are often guided by those of their parents or role models. Moreover, to succeed at soccer tryouts, players must be positive and show their character on and off the field.
3. Help Out—If Your Player Wants You To
Individual training, in particular, is a great way to spend time with your player and support them-- if your player wants you to. You can do this by tossing or retrieving balls, and even by just keeping them company during individual training, such as while they practice passing against a wall or juggling. Individual training is also a good opportunity to highlight skill development, an aspect of the game that is uniquely within your player’s control. Encourage but don’t push. The motivation to do any extra training should come from your player. Check out our parents’ guides on YouTube:
- Helping your player learn to pass and kick the soccer ball: This will also cover how to support your elite player!
- Teaching your player to juggle a soccer ball: Hint-this is mostly about persistence, patience, and support.
- Helping your child learn to dribble a soccer ball: When your players are young, you can help them by trying to steal the ball away!
4. Get to Know Your Player’s Coach
Establish familiarity and trust with your player’s coach. This way, you can be assured that this person has the experience and temperament to be a positive influence for your player. Then, you can rest easy and let the coach do their job—avoiding the pitfalls of trying to be the coach yourself, instead of acting as a parent. Set the foundation early for positive communication with the coach, so that when it comes time to ask a question or discuss an issue, you have already established a good relationship. If you respect the leadership of the coach, so will your player. Check out our post if you want to know, “How much does a private soccer coach cost?”, which also has some great resources for players to access free quality training to do on their own.
5. Communicate With Your Player
Consistent communication with your player is vital. Understanding your player’s goals, thoughts and emotions can help you to support them, and having your player express these things can give you both an understanding of them.
However, let your player lead the way in the time and place to have a discussion. You know the scenario: the game ends and you’re anxious to talk. But maybe your player doesn’t want to. If they do, however, let them initiate the conversation. You may find they think or feel something different than what you assumed, and what you may have erroneously communicated if you spoke first. When we aren’t the player--having their own experience—speaking words we wish we could take back happens more often than you might think.
Communicate praise for effort and commitment above all, and always make the ultimate question be: did you have fun? Despite challenges or disappointments, that is the number one bottom line priority for the length of your player’s soccer career. Avoid criticizing, but no need to overpraise either. Too much praise can cease to feel genuine. And remember that communication is also physical: display good body language during both practice sessions and games. Use your hands to cheer, not to signal coaching tips or negative gestures to the other team or the ref.
6. Don’t Live Through Your Player
Living out your own hopes and dreams through your player can be one of the hardest challenges for all parents, especially those of serious youth athletes. A top team, a college scholarship—even a professional career—these lofty goals need to be rooted in the player, not motivated by the parent. There can be a fine line between encouraging such lofty goals and making those goals too personal. Try to keep perspective, take cues from your player, and seek the guidance from other experienced soccer parents and coaches.
The game is a great way to spend quality time with your player, whether at the field, in the car on the way, or watching together at home. Here are some tips for How To Watch Soccer To Improve Your Game.