BOTH Parents Play a Key Role in Your Childs Sports Development

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Although my “Playing-in-Goal” days were so many years ago, they truly seem like yesterday. I have the clearest memories of playing soccer. I remember my parents never attending any of my games, even the most important ones. In fact, I can’t recall a single game they made.

I think I was 18 years old and at the time I was playing for Ostia Mare U19’s (Serie C league team in Italy). I had just got home from practice and I walk into a living room inbounded in cigarette smoke, there was my father, sitting down with his feet up watching the news on television. I told him how excited I was about training with the first team and that the coaches wanted me to sit on the bench at their next game. My father turned around and said “Give it up, and get yourself a job there’s only one Dino Zoff“.
Needless to say I was crushed! I never spoke to him or my mother ever again about my small period of success in soccer.

When I think back to that episode, I don’t want to repeat any of it with my son. I want to always be the first person to compliment him regardless of the outcome of his games. I remember my fathers exact words… And I remember the slap in the face he gave me.

I think that the most impactful thing I do with my son is debrief each game together, which is something I do with many of the goalkeepers I work with today. It is a ritual and something that he finds motivating. We sit down in front of my computer and watch the footage, we talk about every save, distribution, communication and what he did well and what he needs to improve on. We set goals for the next game. When he complains about his teammates, I put a stop to it immediately, I don’t want him to blame anyone when he’s scored on. It’s not easy to keep positive and focused a 10 year old, but it is totally essential for his mental performance.

You don’t need a sport psychology degree just have a positive attitude and goal oriented attitude. it is something that I emulate on every day. I attempt to lead him in the direction of his dreams. He wants to play pro-soccer and I will do anything it takes to help him reach his goal.

The large majority of parents do not “intentionally” interfere with their child’s sport involvement in a negative way. I admit that sometimes I may put pressure on him without even knowing or recognizing it.

It’s perhaps the most blatant polarity in youth soccer: the overzealous parent everyone is interacting with and the parent nobody knows because simply they’re never there. 

Both parents need to show the same interest in their child’s sports activities and performances. Both need to show up at practice and the games, both need to provide the resources that they can, and show your child that you love being there. It’s all about finding the perfect balance. You can always support your child through attending games, being there when they’re frustrated and, most of all, using the game of soccer to teach life lessons.

We all do it: Leaving work, picking up the child and head straight to practice, but it’s totally worth it. Those acts create a lasting effect that tell children you support them not only in their soccer experience but also in their everyday life.

In all sports (and not just soccer), parents impact their children-athletes in several ways. Number one, they play a massive role in the type of sport they end up playing. Number two, they are the financial railroad, they purchase the kits (in some cases the equipment) and driving great distances their child to and from the training facility and the games. The least recognized way parents influence their child is what parents do or say, or not do and say, impacts how invested and involved their child will be in the sport they’re participating in.Do you best to emphasize and reward your child’s effort, hard work, and preparation regardless of the outcome. Kids like to win and winning is emphasizes in our culture. Put we don’t have control over winning and it can put pressure on us that doesn’t allow us to perform up to our potential.

Remember that it is okay to be highly involved in your children’s soccer development, but the evidence that I’ve personally collected over the years as a parent and a coach is that high involvement must be well balanced with providing children with a good amount of autonomy and independence. You can set boundaries but allow your children some space within these boundaries.

Children learn in sports to be confident, how to be a part of a team, how to handle pressure, and showing responsibility. These are important skills that will hold for the rest of their life.

Take action on your child for poor behavior during practice and the game (being distracted, showing frustration towards a teammate or a coach.). We can’t expect coaches to do all of this for us, they deal with up to 15 kids per session, so Mom and Dad need to do their part. And when we take action to correct our children, we push behavior that will allow them to be successful.

One thing Mom and Dad should NEVER do is comparing your boy or girl to other children on the team. Young soccer players perform their best when they’re totally focused on themselves. Choose every word carefully and describe the improvement you see. Mom and Dad need to be united in this and never contradict one another.

By trying your best to implement these tips, it can allow our young soccer players to be a better person and not only a better athlete and performer, it will certainly allow them to have a fun experience and develop solid friendships along the path.

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