This is a guest blog post from Darren Lyons of GoPlay Sports, a division of ACIS, which takes club, college and high school teams of all skill levels to world-class venues in Europe, the Americas and Australia.
As a parent of three children, the prospect of kick-starting their soccer careers fills me with excitement but also intense trepidation.
Freezing cold mornings stood on the touchline huddled around a warm coffee mug will soon be the norm. Although that delight is a mile away from the glitz of the English Premier League, preparing my offspring for the potential exposure to pushy parents and overzealous coaching is the part that causes me to feel uneasy.
I can remember my own childhood memories of mums and dads bellowing instructions to their ‘little Charlie’ – which more often than not completely contradicted the coach. Or parents heckling the elderly gent and the young adolescent – otherwise known as the referee and his assistant – and their mystifying hatred of the rival coach and the 14-year-old winger playing for the opposition. However, those memories were 30 years ago and I am convinced that things have evolved for the better. The opportunities are now vast in comparison and grass-roots coaching has seen huge investment. Attitudes, I’m hoping, have also changed as I prepare to dip my toe back into the world of junior soccer.
Recently, I came across a brilliant article on Mark O’Sullivan’s FootBlogBall from David Lynch – a coach of eight and nine year-olds at Stockholm club AIK.
He has compiled a list of 24 pointers as advice for parents of young footballers (the British term for soccer players) – starting with “make them pack their own bag” and finishing with “tell your kids you love watching them play” and it certainly is a fantastic guide for new soccer parents like myself.
In truth it’s a fine synopsis for parenting as a whole, not just for youngsters engaging in soccer, but it certainly addresses pertinent issues that I can remember from my time playing the game as a youngster. From the basic principles of learning the value of money, taking responsibility, punctuality and developing respect and compassion, to the use of modern technology and the value of adult-child interaction; it’s an extremely useful article. And certainly one which I’ll be bookmarking and referring to over the next 10 years or so.
David Lynch’s advice to parents on how to raise young footballers.
- Make them pack and prepare their own kit bag.
- Always be in time for training.
- Make them clean their boots.
- Make them put their dirty kit in the wash.
- Tell them to give 100% in training and in matches.
- If possible, walk or cycle to training.
- Teach them how to tie their shoe laces.
- Play football with them, where they want and when they want to.
- Make them wear kit until it is falling apart.
- Buy them new boots when they need them, not when they want them.
- Buy second-hand boots and save yourself a fortune.
- Teach them not to hate other teams.
- Win or lose, love the game.
- Respect team-mates, the opposition, respect the ref, respect other team’s coaches. If you don’t teach them this, the coach will have to do it.
- Let them dream that they could be a Lionel Messi, but don’t give them any expectations.
- Blaming team-mates, blaming the ref, blaming anything is out.
- Let them play football at home with a tennis ball.
- Take them to football matches and let them watch the pros.
- Tell them football is for fun. Training is for fun. If it isn’t fun for them, talk to the coach/club or move to another club.
- Watch football training videos on YouTube and let them try out and perfect some of the moves.
- Encourage them, support them, but never ever shout out instructions when they play on my team, or any team.
- Play other sports.
- If you are a football mum or dad, don’t try to train your kid. Take them out and ask them what they want to do and let them do it.
- Tell your kids that you love watching them play.