Let’s face it… it will never-ever go away. Some soccer moms and dads just can’t help themselves. Whether it’s getting caught up in the excitement of the moment, or some parents feel they know how to “fix” their child, some think the coach isn’t watching, or simply doesn’t know how to coach. One thing is for sure… soccer parents don’t know the game as well as they think. But, you are not one of those parents…. Right? Well, read below and find out.
Let me share a couple of scenarios that happen every weekend on soccer fields all over the US and why your help might be hurting your child. If you want to be a better soccer parent and understand soccer sideline etiquette you should avoid these situations.
Yelling “SHOOT”: A player gets the ball near the opponent’s goal and you and most other soccer moms and dads yell “shoot”! Seems like wonderful advice. WRONG: 9 times out of 10 you cause your child to rush a shot from sheer nervousness of being yelled at. Maybe an extra touch would have allowed the player to create more room for the shot to prevent it from being blocked? Or, maybe he/she needs an extra touch to get their balance to strike the ball hard or use their stronger foot? Or, perhaps their is enough room to dribble closer before shooting? All these situations happen all the time. Whatever the result, we are coaching players to recognize situations on the field and make a decisions. It’s very hard to build “Soccer IQ” in young players. It’s even harder when parents are making the decision for them from 40 yards away. Try your best to let them think through an already stressful moment without worrying about pleasing you. Although missing an opportunity to score an important goal may seem important at the moment, the opportunity for a player to “connect the dots” and learn from such a situation is invaluable.
Yelling “Kick it”: Coaches know that having the ball on the opponent’s side of the field is always a good thing. But, how it gets there is important too! In youth soccer simply “booting” the ball is an effective way to not only get the ball closer to the opponent’s goal, but also win games. Yes… it’s true… at younger ages “booting” the ball helps win games. The issue is as they get older it becomes a very ineffective strategy and is also a very difficult habit to break. Any coach that truly knows the game is teaching his players how to properly receive the ball and pass the ball correctly. A good coach is training his young players a “possession style” of play. That means trying to create triangles on the field, making quick decisions and passes to open players, moving into space without the ball and receiving the ball with the correct foot while keeping their body “open” to the field for maximum vision. Your child failing to execute in a possession style of soccer will quickly landed him on the bench or even the B-team. Yes… he/she will make that occasional poor decision that costs a goal and you will cringe. Remember we learn much more from failures than we do from success.
Yelling “FORWARD”: Coaches know it’s difficult to score goals the ball is being passed backward. That being said, it’s hard for parents to understand that playing the ball backward is a VERY important tactic in soccer. When a player is under pressure he/she should have a player supporting them from behind. In fact, playing the ball all the way back to the goalie is a frequent tactic in higher levels of soccer. Yes, I can’t count the number of times a player makes a mistake in passing the ball backward and something bad happens. It doesn’t change the fact that typically that player that is receiving that backward/supporting pass has a better view of the field and may see a player open and have a better angle at completing the pass. Or, even notice the field is overloaded with players on one side and “switching the field” by passing the ball backward and eventually to the other side of the field could create a better chance of progressing the ball down the field. I have heard many parents groan watching the ball being passed backward. IF you see your team graduate to utilizing this tactic you probably have a good coach.
“Try harder”. As coaches we understand that all kids are motivated differently. We understand that to a parent there is nothing more frustrating than to see your son/daughter distracted, or not trying their hardest. We are better at handling these situations than you think and we DO see it. We may decide it’s something to address on the sideline, or even in practice. We WILL address it. If we can’t figure out to unlock your child, we will certainly ask for advice from you. Being a soccer dad that yells keep it up Timmy or great job is wonderful positive motivation and we will always welcome that type of encouragement from parents.
- “Go get the ball”. This is a HUGE one! Getting young players to stop playing “magnet ball” in which they all swarm and kick at the ball is critical. We try to teach positions and spatial responsibility as soon as possible. I know you want to see your son/daughter get involved in the play, but as coaches we want them to stay in their proper position to either “widen or lengthen the field” on offense to give more room for passing, or stay in their defensive “shape” as a team in order to prevent gaps in the defense. Again, we will notice players not “stepping” to the ball when they should be engaging an opposing player, and we will certainly notice a player out of position defensively and we’ll address it when we feel it’s best.
Finally the most important reason not to coach your son/daughter is they start to tune out their coach. One of my favorite times to correct a player is on the field immediately after a mistake happens. I call these my coaching moments. Sometimes I will ask a player completely turn their back on a game if I think the coaching moment is important enough. But, if a coach cannot get your child’s attention they typically will do one of two things: best case they move your child to the other side of the field away from you in order to prevent you from being able to communicate with them. Worst case is they pull your child from the game because they are “uncoachable” on the field and need to sit on the bench in order to explain concepts.
Parents, I know the game looks simple. There is so much more going on than meets the eye. We are trying to teach your child hundreds if not thousands of technical details while also teaching them tactically what strategy to use when appropriate. Finally, we’re also trying to build passion for the game. The bottom line is: If coaches are unable to communicate with your child you are impeding his/her progress. Therein lines the irony, as much as you are trying to help your child become a better player, you are slowing down their development by communicating with them.
Now let me tell you… there a lot of bad coaches out there. Just because he has a whistle, looks like a coach, and has a foreign accent does not mean he is a good coach. That being said, I think the average parent would have a difficult time telling a good one from a bad. Nonetheless, if you suspect you have a bad coach, simply approach the coach as start asking why. Why did you do this? Why did you do that? A good coach is happy to educate you on the thought process behind his decisions. An educated parent is a great thing for a coach. One caveat is do not do this right after a game. The 24 hour rule is crucial for both you and the coach to get beyond the emotions of the game. If the coach won’t make time, talks down to you, or simply doesn’t have reasons for his decisions it’s probably time to start researching other clubs for next year’s tryout season.
Finally, although all coaches would prefer to win, the best coaches understand that winning is secondary to helping players develop into better soccer players. Yes, a win makes the ride home much more fun. Wins will eventually come if you focus on developing skillful players. It sounds silly to say but, “great players make great plays”. You can’t make great plays without taking risks and making mistakes sometimes. That’s how we learn. Let’s focus less on the wins and more on helping your son/daughter develop skill and passion for this wonderful game.
I always tell my players that the key to success in soccer is ending every day a better player than when he/she woke up. If you focus on that, the car rides will always be enjoyable win or lose.
There is a great free Ebook you can click on here to learn more about being a great soccer parent. It covers rules, general terms, sideline etiquette and even some basic strategy. I recommend all soccer parents read it.
Also: Here is a helpful video that explains the importance of allowing a young soccer player to develop their decision making skills:
The video mentions a book on the subject you can find here if you’re interested: