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What Role Should Parents Play in Youth Soccer?

June 1, 2017


What Role Should Parents Play in Youth Soccer? 


Parents play an incredibly important role in their kid soccer lives. It's because of you (the parent) they can play the beautiful game. You bring them to practice, take them to their games, you always make sure they are properly fed, prepared and hydrated. If it were not for you, kids would not be playing.


We at SIGNnow Sports thank you!


Let's discuss the role of parents in youth soccer. When it comes time to train or play children need their parents. However, it is in a different role than what you may think.




When children play the game of soccer, they play because it is FUN. They enjoy the occasion. When the game stops being fun, they stop playing. Imagine being a child playing soccer in today’s world. Imagine playing a game, and constantly all you hear is different instructions.


  • “Look at X, John! Pass! He is wide open!”




By shouting instructions, you can create many negative thoughts and experiences for your player:


  • Your child might lose interest in the game

  • They may become dependent on your information

  • They stop playing free and only do what they are told

  • The game is no longer FUN


Your intentions may be for the best, but it does not bode well for their future growth and development.


In many countries around the world, parents are required to sign contracts that prohibit them from shouting instructions. They are only allowed to provide encouragement and support.


Also, many clubs do NOT even allow parents to be anywhere near the training ground during practice. Many clubs have facilities that are protected by fences that parents must remain on the outside of during training.


The reason is to allow the player maximum opportunity to learn away from the pressure of his or her parents. This offers players the greatest chance of reaching their full potential because they will not be restricted or feel additional pressure. Children in life need to be able to make their own decisions, to learn on their own, and determine what works and what does not. The game of football (soccer) is no different.


Think of it this way, when your son or daughter goes to school, are you there in their classroom or are they learning from a teacher or instructor who is there to make sure they learn the necessary subjects to succeed? 


Of course, they are their alone with their teacher (with their classmates of course). However, the premise remains the same. It should be the same way on the soccer field. Players are being taught on how to be better players by their coaches. 


We as a nation, need to protect our young player's imagination, creativity, and freedom.


This starts with you, the parent. The best thing you can do is encourage your children after they play. Regardless if they played well or not (in your opinion). They look to you for encouragement and support.


By giving them encouragement and support: It will give them tremendous satisfaction knowing their parents are behind them. It will also potentially provide them with additional motivation to do more next week and the necessary environment to prosper. Here are some ideas:


  1. “That was an awesome pass to X.”

  2. “That was a great move you used on the right-side, you should do that more often!”

  3. “Great game today, I was really impressed by that skill you used to beat that defender!”


Give them feedback. Let them know what you thought they did well. If you want, ask questions about the game. Get them to think on their own and discover their own answers.


"Football is a thinker’s game. You have to be able to make a decision based on the information you have and your perception. You as the player have to decide your next move." 


The following are some sample questions:


  1. “How do you think you played? (wait for answer from your son or daughter) Why do you think that?

  2. “What do you think you could've done better?”

  3. “That was a great play, how did you do it?”


Just remember, you are the parent. Lots of kids get defensive or argumentative because you are mom or dad. They do not want to listen to you. Even if you are right, that may not accept it.


Playing with Freedom


The best players are the ones with creativity, expression, and freedom to go out and play. They enjoy the experience and ultimately rise to the occasion. The pressure is removed. They are free to play the game the way they know how.


“Imagine if parents or coaches just yelled at Messi to pass the ball in his youth. He would have lost that spark, that freedom, the ability just to go out and enjoy the game. He would not be anywhere near the same player today.”


We believe the parents that let the their children be free on the pitch have the greatest opportunity for growth and future success. Players that are exposed to having to find their own answers and make their own decisions when they play tend to think and play quicker. They are not waiting for direction or instructions. They are capable of making their own decisions. We can't give them the answers, or they will not have the necessary knowledge to try and solve their own challenges.


There was a picture that surfaced recently of Messi and Suarez, two of the greatest footballers in the modern game. In the picture, they were sitting back, comfortable and watching their children play. They were not standing up yelling or bombarding their kids with instructions. They let their coaches do their job.


We are talking about two of the greatest players ever. Letting their kids enjoy the moment of the game away from the pressure of parents. 


"We all want our children to achieve great results, but to encourage the right behaviors in the longer term, it's important to create an environment that encourages hard work, effort, and growth. Praise and learning. Avoid praising results unless they are a byproduct of solid effort and lessons learned."


Think about how incredible it would feel if your son or daughter made an incredible bit of skill on their own or scored the winning goal in their game without anyone shouting or providing instructions.


It would be an amazing feeling for them and you because they earned it on their own. They worked hard during practice and the results paid off. That is the environment we need to establish for our players. A Laissez-faire (free) environment, where they can go out and play and make something happen.


Is it failure or a not-successful moment?  


“Failure is not doing something because of fear or giving up on something because you did not succeed before.”


Arguably the world’s greatest ever player, Messi - does NOT succeed, let alone win every time he plays. He continues to make mistakes, as anyone else does. However, it does NOT stop him from continuing to try again until he does succeed. He is always looking to beat players, score goals and make something happen on the pitch. This can be best described in one word: Freedom.


“Barcelona’s Lionel Messi gives the ball away more than any other player in La Liga. The Argentina international is considered the finest dribbler in the game today but has conceded possession 279 times so far this season.” (Released February 1st, 2012)


To summarize: 


1. Be supportive and encourage the players

2. Do NOT put additional pressure

3. Let the kids enjoy the game

4. Refrain from shouting or bombarding with instructions


Help them think and discover ways to improve their own game. Remind them to go out and play with freedom. Help them remove the fear of failure and watch their game improve. 


We wanted to add a brief side topic to this article, and it is called "What if my child constantly dribbles?"


This is a hot topic in the American game and here is our take and some advice: 


While soccer is a team sport, the game is slowly becoming more and more individualistic. Players are becoming more athletic, and more individual awards are being rewarded to stand-out players (i.e. World's Best Player or Player of the Season). In the modern game, more often than not, every game needs a bit of "magic" from one player to win. It needs one player to go on a fantastic run and dribble past 1, 2 or 3 players and beat the goalkeeper to score.


Dribbling is and will always be a KEY component to the game, and this will more than likely never change. Player's should be able to dribble freely. This all stems back to the creativity and freedom of players. Some are born with a knack for dribbling, others have a heightened sense for finding teammates, and some can always find the right place to be at the right time. 


If a player dribbles, it is normal. There is NOTHING wrong. We believe, the worst thing you can do is tell a player to stop dribbling or to pass. This could cause irreversible damage and change to the player mindset and behavior. Let them make their own decisions. Even if they dribble all the time (even with the young ones) let them learn. Do NOT discourage or tell them to Stop.  

Allow the coach the opportunity to provide guidance on when to discover the opportune moments of when to dribble or when to pass. A lot of times this happens because a player does NOT lift their head enough to recognize spaces or teammates. As they progress and develop, they will continue to learn and refine their game. However, It can NOT be achieved overnight.


Just Remember: In 2012, Messi, arguably the world's greatest player, lost the ball the most out of any player in his league. However, no one tells him to stop dribbling. Every one waits for a moment of magic from the magical Messi.



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