By Molly Menchel - former pro player and current youth coach.
I grew up loving the game of soccer. Everything about it. My team sessions, playing in the basement or backyard, watching the game, playing in league games, tournaments--regionally, nationally, and around the world. I come from an intense, competitive, soccer family. But at no point did my parents interfere with my relationship with the game. Looking back, I am grateful for the way they let me enjoy the game to the fullest.
Like most kids, my parents drove me to all my team sessions and games. My mom would drop me off at practice, say “have fun,” and then she would leave. My parents never interjected themselves into my practices or games. It was my time. I remember when I was 9 years old, in the final game of a tournament, and parents were creeping onto the field, screaming instructions at the players. One little girl I was next to literally stopped, turned around, and yelled to the parents on the sideline. “Stop yelling at me, I can only listen to one of you!” Clearly, that should be the coach. The parents were left speechless, but hopefully they learned a lesson!
My parents were my biggest fans; they loved watching me play. But they made it clear that this was MY passion. I remember driving 8 hours home from my grandparents when I was 15 years old, only to drop off my siblings, get back in the car, and leave for practice. As we pulled out of the driveway, my mom stopped the car, turned to me, and said: “Are you sure you want to go and do this? Don’t do it for me, don’t do it for dad.” And I looked back at her and said, “Yes, this is what I do.” Looking back, I realize she was exhausted, but was willing to drive me despite the long trip home because I loved the game, and I just wanted to play.
As I’ve stepped into a coaching role over the past couple of years, I’ve observed parent behavior. Parent to child, parent to coach, parent to parent. It’s all very interesting, and usually makes me laugh because it’s absurd to me at times what I see and hear!
On that note, I want to share a few ideas and tips on parents being supportive and just letting their kids play.
1 - DROP OFF, LEAVE, PICK UP
Don’t be the helicopter parent that your child glances at during the sessions. Let this be THEIR time. Let them be on their own.
2 - JUST LET YOUR KID PLAY! ZIP YOUR LIPS!
Let the coach teach. Let your child have some freedom on the field! Please do not coach from the sidelines. You may know the game, but it’s important to trust the coach. You signed your child up to play on that team. You may not agree with all decisions, but the respect must be there. I guarantee that 99% of players do not want to hear their parents yelling to (or at!) them or anyone on the field during the game. Applaud all you want, but keep your thoughts to yourself!
3 - BE SUPPORTIVE
As a parent, hopefully this is your forte. Be positive before and after sessions and games. Try not to be overly critical and suck the fun out of the game your children love. No player wants to feel nervous or worry that a parent is going to yell at them. They’ll have good and bad games, and that’s all part of the process. Knowing that they can speak to you freely about the way they played, or whatever it is they are feeling, is valuable and important!
4 - OFFER GUIDANCE
If the coach gives feedback, offer to help. See that your player is struggling on the field? Offer to help. Talk with your child about what they want to work on. Maybe list some short- and long-term goals. Then, help them to come up with a plan on how THEY can tackle those goals. Encourage them to go to their coach and ask questions. Let that be between player and coach, not parent and coach! Check out Techne’s Blog with 6 tips for soccer parents.
5 - ENCOURAGE OUTSIDE TRAINING
Now is a good time to shine! Does your player want to improve? Do they want to make the top team, earn more playing time, or play at a higher level? Let them know that THEY are in control of their development. It’s not the coach. It’s not the parent. The onus is ultimately on THEM! Offer to knock the ball around with them. Reach for the Techne App, with which they can access independent guided training, compete on leaderboards, and track improvement! It’s fun and engaging, and can radically help their development.
Get a 7-day free trial of the Techne Futbol app and 10% off your first purchase using code BLOG. CLAIM MY FREE TRIAL >>
Let your player fall in love with the beautiful game. Sit back and (quietly) enjoy the ride, wherever it may take them.