It seems everywhere we turn these days, kids are spending more time alone and less time with other kids. Soccer and other youth sports are ways to keep your kids involved, learning interpersonal skills, staying fit and making new friends. At first, soccer may seem like an easy way to get involved but as the newness of a team wears off, maybe your player’s interest in the game has started to wain. Here are 4 ways for you to get involved and help keep your player inspired to play soccer for years to come.
1. Encourage and participate in Training and Practicing at home
We are all shaped by our parents’ involvement in what we do at the youth level. The best coach and most consistent coach your child will ever have is you. Throughout your child’s life, coaches will come and go, but you will always be there. Getting involved with coaching your child doesn’t mean you have to coach the whole team. Maybe you don’t know how to coach the game of soccer. This is your opportunity to learn the game alongside your player and grow your love for the game together.
Seeing mom or dad trying to do a new move, messing it up and finally getting it, is great for bonding and laughing. It shows the younger player know that learning happens all through life.
Several times a week make the time to do touches, moves, shooting, trapping and touch on the skills that are not worked on during normal practices. You will cherish these sessions for the rest of your life as time well spent with your child.
Need inspiration? Check out YouTube for some simple at home training drills.
2. Create Connections to Soccer moments for your child
There is a large drop off of the number of soccer players in the 6-9 year old range – and often the difference here can be a child developing a connection to the sport (and finding a bit more success).
Connections to soccer moments are opportunities for your child, and you, to develop a deeper connection to the game. Take your player to a professional game, watch a match together, get them that club or national team jersey of their favorite player, help them attend camps and training that are with players other than their teammates. These positive memories and connections around the game will inspire them to stay involved, continue to train, and to get better.
3. When at games, as a parent, practice “Good”, “Great”, “Awesome”
We have all been to the game where one parent is yelling harshly at their kid, the referee, or the coach. Over time, it can become an embarrassment for the team, the coach, and especially the child. No kid wants their parent to be the one that gets tossed out for negative comments.
As a parent, think beyond a single bad play of a game, a bad call or no call by a ref, and see the bigger picture. If you really want to keep your kids thinking positively about soccer and continue to love the sport, create a positive playing environment every time they are on the pitch.
Remember the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all?” Well that is unrealistic in many sporting situations. Instead, as a bystander, try practicing the Good, Great and awesome comments (“Good Job”, “Great Shot”, “Awesome Defense”, “Spectacular Goal!”). These comments are encouraging and create a positive atmosphere that your child will want to return to.
Also, remember, if you are not the coach of the team, you are there to enjoy the game with and for your player. You must understand the difference between supportive (“Good Job” “Keep Going”) and distracting (“Shoot” “Pass to Michael”) communication and eliminate distracting communication. Distracting communication with the player may go in contrast to what they have been asked by their coach to do. If you are yelling “pass” and the coach has told them to shoot, who is the player going to listen to? Probably the person they will have to ride home in the car with. Make that car ride home a great one because you were the Good, Great, Awesome parent on the sideline.
4. Educate yourself about the Laws and nuances of the game.
Did you know that soccer is actually governed by a set of laws that are enforced by the referee and not by a set of rules? It’s true! Although many youth leagues do have added rules, the Laws are what govern the game of soccer. Step one is educating yourself about the laws of the game, including the nuances and intricacies of the game.
While it’s not necessary for you to become an expert in the game, having a basic understanding of the Laws of the Game or a general grasp of the various formations of play, positions and tactics can make the experience with your child much more gratifying. The more you know about the game the more you will enjoy it also.
Want to get a step ahead of the other parents? Think about taking a referee course. You will learn the game, and be able to help out at games on the weekends. We also encourage all players to take the referee courses as well. It is much easier to bend the laws when you know what they are.
Keeping your player interested and excited about playing starts at home. Remember to learning about the game, practice to become better outside of training, create special moments and most of all make sure to make soccer a positive experience and your youth player will be playing soccer for the rest of their lives.