For Kids Only...
The World of Kids and Soccer Pressure
Growing pains: Girls face challenge of the 'commotional' years
Champion coach Albertin Montoya puts winning in perspective
As Girls Become Women, Sports Pay Dividends
Referees and Youth Soccer
Parent Education for Competitive Players
How We Develop Players Article 4: The Proper Role of Parents
Parent Code of Conduct
Official Soccer Rules Illustrated
Ever wanted to understand the offside rule better? Check out this easy explanation from Official Soccer Rules Illustrated, by Stanley Lover
Youth Soccer Insider
For Kids Only...
September 2, 2011
(With fall soccer starting around the country, the Youth Soccer Insider republishes this article, which first appeared in September 2009.) This column is for the kids. Adults can stop reading now.By Mike WoitallaDear Soccer-Playing Children of America, The fall season is underway and I'm hoping you're having a great time. I'm hoping that you're playing soccer more than you have to stand in line and do drills. I hope you're falling in love with the soccer ball and keep it with you as much as you can. Juggling it. Kicking it against a wall. Dribbling it around in your backyard. And I especially hope that your parents aren't screaming at you during your soccer games. I worry that you probably do get yelled at, because that's what I see at almost all the youth soccer games I go to. Hopefully you just ignore it. But I don't blame you if it bothers you. No one enjoys getting screamed at. Sure, if you start crossing the street on a red light or throw a toy at your little sister or brother, your parents are justified in raising their voices. But they shouldn't scream at you while you're playing a game. If they do, it doesn't mean they're bad people. But, unfortunately, sports does something to adults that makes them behave in ways they usually wouldn't. You may have noticed this if you watched sports on TV. A coach, for example, dresses up in a fancy suit and throws tantrums like a 3-year-old. Get adults around sports and all of a sudden they forget the same manners they try to teach you. In a way, sports are like driving. A grown-up gets behind the wheel and all of a sudden forgets you're not supposed to pick your nose in public. And when grown-ups go watch their children play soccer, they, for some reason, think it's OK to scream like maniacs. Perhaps they don't realize what they're doing. Like the nose-pickers on the freeway who think they've suddenly gone invisible. I hope you're able to block out all the sideline noise. But maybe you do hear their shouts. Telling you when to shoot the ball, when to pass it. Ignore all that! You need to dribble the ball. Try to dribble past players. If you're dribbling too much, your teammates will let you know. And they'll help you make the decision of when to pass and when to dribble. You decide when to shoot. When you're dribbling toward the goal and the goalkeeper is 20 yards away, and the adults are screaming at you to shoot, don't pay attention. Because if you get closer to the goal, it will be harder for the goalkeeper to stop your shot. One of the really cool things about my job is that I get to interview the best coaches in America. And you know what the national team coaches tell me? They say young players are far more likely to become great players if they're allowed to make their own decisions when they play soccer. They say that coaches should coach at practice, and when it's game time, it's time for the children to figure things out on their own. It's like at school. The teachers help you learn. Your parents may help you with homework. But when you get a test, you're on your own. That's just an analogy. I'm not saying soccer is school! Soccer is your playtime. I hope you have lots of playtime, on the soccer field and elsewhere. But I bet that you don't have as much time playing without adults around as we did when we were children. When we were kids we had summer days when we would leave the house in the morning, be only with other children all day, then see our parents when we got back in the late afternoon. Things have changed. The reasons adults are much more involved in your activities than they were when they were children are complicated, and a result of your parents' good intentions. But sometimes we adults forget how important it is for you to play without us interfering. We love watching you play, especially on the soccer field, because it is such a wonderful sport. But we need to be reminded that it's your playtime. You should decide. Ignore the shouts if you can. But don't be afraid to say, "I'm trying my best. Please, don't scream at me." (Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for East Bay United in Oakland, Calif. His youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)
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The World of Kids and Soccer Pressure
September 9, 2011
Growing pains: Girls face challenge of the 'commotional' years
Youth Soccer Insider
September 9, 2011
By Mike Woitalla
Age-appropriate coaching has been cited as extremely important in player development. The Youth Soccer Insider begins a series on this topic with a look at the challenges faced by female players as they transition into their teen years by checking in with Tad Bobak, one of the most experienced and successful girls coaches in American youth soccer.
Bobak, who served almost three years as U.S. U-15 girls national team coach, is currently in his fifth cycle of coaching a team from U-11 to U-18 at the So Cal Blues, an all-girls club in the soccer hotbed of Southern California. Bobak is also co-director of the Blues, which have won four U.S. Youth Soccer national titles and sent scores of players to the higher levels.
“These are very sensitive topics, because, to me, boys’ growth is different than girls',” says Bobak. “We’re talking about the mental and physical.”
Bobak defines the physical part as speed and strength.
“If they’re fortunate to keep the speed they had when they were young, that’s already a big success,” he says of girls moving into their teens. “In many cases, that speed does not move up through the years the way it does with guys. Many times the speed of females drops through the years, unlike guys.
“The physical strength of a player can increase through the years as the body evolves and gets more mature, but it can also decrease.”
The physical changes happen at different times for different girls, but in general, says Bobak, “Everything kind of comes together at about 14. It’s a very emotional process from 11, 12 and 13. Those are very commotional years on the soccer field, especially here in the States where there’s so much screaming, so much competition, so much [focus on] winning and so much hype wound up.
“It’s a storm and I feel for these kids to go through such pressures. Year in and year out, I see that continuously on the soccer field and it’s not a healthy arena for the girls because there’s so much pressure on them in competitive club soccer.
“If they are able to survive that and things are kind of kept in healthy way, then at 14 I kind of want to see them perform their best.”
But girls often struggle as their bodies change and Bobak has seen players who were dominant in their pre-teen years no longer make the impact on the game that they used to. The ones who manage to come through the difficult transition period are those who have a solid skill base and a high level of mental aggressiveness and competitiveness in them.
“If a player body-wise is light in her frame and gets knocked around a lot, but she still puts herself into 50-50 situations, even though she ends up on the ground, because she has aggressiveness – that player, when her body fills out, regains her productivity,” he says.
“But if from the beginning she’s a more passive player mentally, and she gets knocked around, the confidence level drops a lot where many times it cannot be regained.”
Bobak says that he’s come to the conclusion that mental aggressiveness can’t be taught.
“Thirty years ago, I found the girls needed to be more mentally aggressive in this competitive arena, so I used to work out drills where there’s a lot of 50-50 battles, a lot of physical confrontations, to bring out mental aggressiveness in the players,” he says. “I believed that I could extract that mental aggressiveness. But I found out in this 30-year process that I can’t draw mental aggressiveness if they don’t have that makeup.
“Now the ones who have it, I notice what I’m doing is I’m polishing what they have. But if they’re not able to have that aggressiveness, I’m not able to bring it out. I can’t polish something that doesn’t exist. I haven’t seen anything out there to bring it out.
“I can only keep aggressiveness going in a positive direction in the ones who have it.”
SKILL BASE IS KEY. Players who are technically sound can persevere when their athleticism lags.
“The key thing is the skill base,” Bobak says. “If they have good body form when they pass the ball, when they collect the ball, when they dribble the ball, when they shoot the ball – it might get shaky a bit during those tumultuous years but when everything catches up, when their bodies fill out – they regain in their impactfulness. The base is still there and that base can even be shined.
“But if the base is not there, it’s never going to be there later on.
“These are very sensitive things, because they’ll say, ‘You’re giving up on a kid already.’ But what I’ve seen is that players who are 11, 12, 13 and are very helter-skelter in their base of skills, I haven’t come across a player who’s found those skills later on in my 40 years of coaching. So I have to go with what I’ve experienced. Now people who haven’t gone through that experience are hanging me from a tree.”
A problem in youth soccer is that the very young players who are endowed with physical strengths and mental aggressiveness are not allowed to refine technically and tactically, says Bobak, because they’re winning games with those attributes.
“We have players who have an incredible mental, physical strength, but their ability to handle the ball is choppy and inconsistent,” he says. “Our arena doesn’t allow the ball-handing to be refined because they relied so much on the mental and the physical, and our arena kept rewarding them. ‘Oh don’t worry about your skills out there because you’re getting the results we want you to get.’”
STRENGTH AND SPEED. Bobak is skeptical about the strength and conditioning coaches, and all fitness centers that promise to help kids become more agile, quicker, speedier, stronger.
"These centers profess they can make a major impact on these players, because obviously they want your money,” says Bobak, who cites a scale of measuring strength and speed from 0-50, and considers the 40-to-50 zone that of an elite athlete. “What they do, is they can add 5 steps. That’s the most that they can add in physical speed and strength. If you’re 30 on that scale and you’re adding 5, you’re at 35.
“Have you added to your speed? Yes. Are you in the competitive zone? No. Your speed has improved, so there’s merit to their work. But it’s a very small merit. If they were 33 in their strength, now they’re 38, but they’re not in the competitive zone.
“Let’s say they’re 40 in speed and 40 in strength. They’re in the competitive zone. They go to these people and they’re at 45. So they’re going against an athlete who’s 40, and that athlete doesn’t do that, obviously the one who did it is going to be 45 and the other one is at 40.
“But the information comes back to the layperson that there’s these miraculous changes out there, and the changes are only five steps.
“Well, I don’t recommend this at all for the girls out there ages 12, 13, 14, 15.
“What I’ve seen when they do that, these girls having private soccer coaching lessons, they have their own club coaches, they go to these centers, they go to these soccer camps, and what I see is girls at 16 burnt out of soccer. They’re burnt out. They don’t want to come to practice or games. They’re burnt out here in America. I see that over and over.
“Going to these centers when they’re young is nonsense. But these parents are driving them in car pools to these things. When they’re older, OK, start doing a little beginning sort of program.”
PRIORITIES CHANGE. On the mental side, as girls grow up, their focus on soccer can change and affect their play.
“The mental part when it comes to female soccer can change through the years because their interest in the sport of soccer changes a lot,” Bobak says. “When they’re engaged and very much interested and focused, there is that mental enthusiasm that they display because it’s sort of the primary thing they’re involved in. But when it becomes secondary and third-place, obviously the mental enthusiasm is not as big now.
“Sometimes you see that mental aspect in the female player change because there are other priorities in their lives and their activities start getting bigger.”
Their passion for the sport may also diminish if they’re being asked to do too much.
“In my case here, State Cup ends for these young ones end of February, beginning of March,” he says. “Our season starts the middle of July and it goes all the way to the middle of February. Non-stop besides two weeks for Christmas. When it comes to February, we have tryouts. All of March and all of April, I give them off. Parents are upset. Parents go beserk.
“The ego of the parents drives this whole female soccer phenomenon. ‘I want my daughter to be better. I want more. Give me more, give me more because I want to stick out my chest.’ That’s the mentality of the American culture.
“In May, we get together once a week, non-mandatory. And we play in two tournaments, non-mandatory in May, just to get a little bit of team chemistry with the new players. End of May, I give them another six weeks off and parents are going crazy. The kids, when they’re 17, 18, they come back to me and they thank me for those six weeks I gave them off when they were young. Because they’re so burned out.”
(Tad Bobak, the co-director of the So Cal Blues, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1950. He spent the first 12 years of his life in Brazil and then lived in Europe for nine years before moving in 1971 to California, where he started his coaching career in AYSO in 1972. He started coaching club soccer in 1974 and helped start, along with Marine Cano, the Cal-South Girls Olympic Development Program in 1982. Bobak coached girls ODP for 18 years. He also coached women’s amateur adult club soccer for 15 years, winning a USASA national title in 2002. In 1979, he volunteered to be the L.A.Aztecs' equipment manager so he could observe legendary Dutch coach Rinus Michels train the likes of Johan Cruyff. In 1986, Bobak coached Fram-Culver, which included future Hall of Famer Marcelo Balboa, to the McGuire Cup boys U-19 national title. Bobak also had stints as a men’s assistant coach at UCLA and men’s assistant coach at Cal State L.A., as well as the head women’s coach at UC Santa Barbara. Bobak co-founded the So Cal Blues with Larry Draluck in 1990. Bobak won US Youth Soccer girls national titles in 2000 (U-16) and 2007 (U-15).)
(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for East Bay United in Oakland, Calif. His youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)
I'm a romantic, says Xavi, heartbeat of Barcelona and Spain
Xavi, who visits Arsenal with Barça next week, on his football education, Cesc Fábregas and the greatness of Paul Scholes
The Guardian, 2/11/11
Monday, Oct. 4, 2010
By Mike Woitalla
On a sunny September Sunday, Coach Albertin Montoya watched his Gold Pride players, including the magnificent Brazilian Marta and U.S. world champion Tiffeny Milbrett, celebrate the WPS championship after a 4-0 win over Philadelphia. The dominating final performance followed a regular season in which the Gold Pride averaged nearly two goals per game and played such entertaining and effective soccer that longtime reporter on the women’s game, Scott French, declared it the best women’s club team ever.
Thanks much to Marta, the Gold Pride played soccer worth paying to watch. So as Montoya, out of the corner of his eye, watched his players bask in the glory, I asked him why the USA isn't producing Martas. After all, this country has more girls playing and more resources dedicated to female soccer than any other nation. Shouldn't we be seeing many more highly skillful, exciting players? “We’ll need to talk about youth soccer,” said Montoya.
Montoya is also a longtime Northern California youth coach for girls and boys. He and his wife, Erin, a former collegiate star and pro player, run the Montoya Soccer Academy and coach at Mountain View Los Altos SC, for which Albertin also serves as technical director for under-8 through under-14 boys teams. “The biggest problem at the youth level is the emphasis on winning,” he says. “I don’t know if it’s in our genes or what, but there’s so much desire to win at the ages when player development should be the emphasis. “The first thing I tell parents is, ‘You want to win at U-8, U-9, U-10, U-11, U-12 -- you’re at the wrong club. We’re here to develop players to where, hopefully, by the time they’re U-14, U-15s, they’re playing at a high level, where if we do our job, winning will be a byproduct and we’ll compete for state championships.”
At the U-14/15 level – when the college showcases begin – MVLA teams do get results and win championships. And it sent 14 players to the girls youth national team program in the last seven years.
“These players might not be winning at 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 – but that’s not what it’s about,” he says. “We’ve lost some good players in the past because their parents wanted to win at U10, U11.”
The challenge is to convince parents that at the early ages the focus should be on individual technical development – not scorelines. Montoya even advocates against playing league ball at the early ages.
“I don’t want our teams at U9, U10, U11 to play in the league,” he says. “I want to just have in-house 4v4s. It’s difficult because parents say, ‘We want to play different teams. We want to travel.’ I say, 'Believe me. You’ll have plenty of time to travel and drive when they’re 14, 15, 16. You don’t want to do it now when they’re U8, U9, U10.'
“We have enough players in our backyard. Let’s play 3v3, 4v4. But the parents want to play other teams. So I said, 'OK. We’ll do it in the fall.' But in the spring we’re not going to play anywhere. We are going to continue what I believe in. They’ll get more touches on the ball.”
Like most close observers of the women’s game, Montoya sees that the USA has depended too much on athleticism – being stronger, faster and quicker: “When you watch the U-17 and U-20 World Cups you see the technical ability of the Japanese, the Koreans, the Germans, the Brazilians – you ask, ‘Why can’t our players do that?’ We have the athletes and I think it does go down to the early youth level where there’s so much emphasis on winning.”
When Montoya coaches his pros, he wants them to play like Barcelona or Spain. To rely on skill, creativity and possession.
“Once they realized they could play that kind of game … When you have the ball – they enjoy it that much more,” he says. “As soon as we lose it, we try to win it right back. And when we get it back, then identify, ‘Do we do a quick counter or do we keep it and let them chase for a while?’”
With his youngsters, it’s all about developing the individual skills that will enable them to play a possession game later. That, he says, is a bigger challenge for American youth coaches, whose players don’t watch as much soccer as, for example, Brazilian children. So coaches need to demonstrate more and do more skill work – and encourage dribbling during games even it if means the risk of losing the ball and giving up goals.
“My U-9 teams -- I haven’t even told them to pass it yet,” says Montoya. “I want my right back to dribble six players. I want my left back to dribble five, six players. I want my center back to do the same thing. My center-mid, my forward. Every single one of them.
“So we get 9-year-olds who are doing spin turns like Marta does. They’re doing step-overs. And I want that. I encourage that at every single position. And every game, they’ll start at a different position.”
Montoya doesn’t mind if a young player loses the ball because she keeps dribbling and the other team exploits the error for a goal. In fact, he “bribes” his players to try dribbling moves during a game. Giving them a small prize if they pull off a step-over move or a “Maradona” during a game.
“When a U-9 player touches the ball once, passes, touches the ball once, passes. How much are they developing?” he asks. “Teams may look well organized when they keep their players in the same positions – the positions they’re strongest at. But what separates players at the highest level is doing magic with the ball. So dribbling needs to be encouraged early on. The organized tactical stuff should come later. I tell the parents don’t tell the kids to pass the ball.”
When strong athletes are encouraged to strike the ball into space and run after it – coaches may start winning. But these players suffer later because they’ve been encouraged to use their athleticism instead of their skill or their savvy. When they're older, says Montoya, they have a certain style – but’s a power, direct syle.
“When they’re 13, 14, 15 -- there’s even more emphasis on winning and a coach is even less likely to work on developing the player,” he says.
But Montoya sees that parents are starting to understand why the scorelines shouldn’t be considered so important. “It’s all about educating the parents,” he says. “And fortunately there is a generation of coaches coming up now who have played the game at a high level. But we need to make sure those coaches are working at the younger age groups and that they have developing players as a priority and not winning games.”
(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for Rockridge SC in Oakland, Calif. His youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)
A great article about supporting your youth soccer player
As Girls Become Women, Sports Pay Dividends
Published: February 15, 2010 New York Times
Almost four decades after the federal education law called Title IX opened the door for girls to participate in high school and college athletics, a crucial question has remained unanswered: Do sports make a long-term difference in a woman’s life?
A large body of research shows that sports are associated with all sorts of benefits, like lower teenage pregnancy rates, better grades and higher self-esteem. But until now, no one has determined whether those improvements are a direct result of athletic participation. It may be that the type of girl who is attracted to sports already has the social, personal and physical qualities — like ambition, strength and supportive parents — that will help her succeed in life.
Now, separate studies from two economists offer some answers, providing the strongest evidence yet that team sports can result in lifelong improvements to educational, work and health prospects. At a time when the first lady, Michelle Obama, has begun a nationwide campaign to improve schoolchildren’s health, the lessons from Title IX show that school-based fitness efforts can have lasting effects.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 required schools and colleges receiving federal money to provide the same opportunities for girls as they did for boys. Relatively few students, male or female, participate in intercollegiate sports. But the effects in high school were remarkable. Just six years after the enactment of Title IX, the percentage of girls playing team sports had jumped sixfold, to 25 percent from about 4 percent.
Most research on Title IX has looked at national trends in girls’ sports. Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, has taken it a step further, focusing on state-by-state variations.
“I looked to see what it means to add sports to girls’ lives,” she said. “How does it change things for them?”
States with large boys’ sports programs had to make bigger changes to achieve parity than states with smaller programs. Looking at the state-by-state statistics allowed Dr. Stevenson to narrow her focus, comparing differences in sports participation with differences in women’s educational and work achievement.
So her study untangles the effects of sports participation from other confounding factors — school size, climate, social and personal differences among athletes — and comes far closer to determining a cause and effect relationship between high school sports participation and achievement later in life.
Using a complex analysis, Dr. Stevenson showed that increasing girls’ sports participation had a direct effect on women’s education and employment. She found that the changes set in motion by Title IX explained about 20 percent of the increase in women’s education and about 40 percent of the rise in employment for 25-to-34-year-old women.
“It’s not just that the people who are going to do well in life play sports, but that sports help people do better in life,” she said, adding, “While I only show this for girls, it’s reasonable to believe it’s true for boys as well.”
Another question is whether Title IX has made a difference in women’s long-term health. In a carefully conducted study, Robert Kaestner, an economics professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, compared rates of obesity and physical activity of women who had been in high school in the 1970s — as Title IX was taking effect — with similar women from earlier years. Controlling the results for other influences, like age and changing diets, Dr. Kaestner was able to tease out the effects Title IX had on women’s health.
He found that the increase in girls’ athletic participation caused by Title IX was associated with a 7 percent lower risk of obesity 20 to 25 years later, when women were in their late 30s and early 40s. His article was published this month in the journal Evaluation Review.
Dr. Kaestner notes that while a 7 percent decline in obesity is modest, no other public health program can claim similar success. And other studies have shown that even a small drop in weight can lower risk for diabetes and other health problems.
There is still room for improvement. Today about 1 in 3 high school girls play sports, compared with about half of all boys. And participation varies widely by state, according to Dr. Stevenson’s research. Southern states like Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee still have big gender gaps, while Northern states like Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont are closer to parity.
“While we have more girls than ever before, we still have far more boys playing sports than girls,” said Nicole M. LaVoi, associate director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. “The research clearly states that when anybody, boys and girls, are physically active, they can reap developmental and health benefits. But we haven’t reached equality yet.”
Referees and Youth Soccer
There are an alarmingly low number of referees in the soccer community. It is a problem that is not unique to this area but plagues the entire country. Youth soccer has grown exponentially over the past 15 years but the number of referees has not matched that growth. Why? There is no easy answer to this question but one that could be argued is referee abuse from parents and coaches. The next time you are at a youth soccer match officiated by a referee, it is important to remember these golden rules:
We have a responsibility to help our referees grow and develop just like we have a responsibility to help our players. We would like to keep referees in the game and help them develop along the way. That is why we ask that everyone follow the guidelines above when attending games. Remember, our players get to practice their skills in the sport twice a week but our referees do not get any opportunity but the actual game to practice their craft. We do understand that for development to occur we have to know when things are not going quite the way we would like. As with everything, there is an appropriate way to communicate our concerns. In the vent that there are concerns about how an official is refereeing a game, please discuss your concerns with your team’s coach. The coach will discuss the concerns with the appropriate director and we will address the concerns and help our referees improve their game and stay in the game for a longer period of time.
- If you’re not sure whether your behavior toward a referee is appropriate, try the following test: Imagine you are being recorded for sound and video and your actions will be televised in every household in America. If what you are doing passes that test! Then you’re good to go.
- If you have never been certified as a referee or have never refereed a match, you have no basis from which to criticize the official; and if you are a referee, you should know better! If you really want to display your knowledge of the Laws of the Game, identify all of the correct decisions being made by the referee and help us educate the rest of the folks on the sidelines. That should keep you busy for quite some time!
- A referee is somebody’s child, father, mother, brother, or sister. Their parents do not come to the match to publicly criticize the way your child plays. Please return the favor!
- The referee’s decision is final. You don’t have to like the decision, but you must respect it and move on. Imagine what the game would be like if the parents ripped the players apart every time a bad decision was made…The fact is, the vast majority of young referees leaving the game do so because of the pressure of parent/coach abuse. Not surprisingly, the same is true for players. Do not blame the outcome of a match on an official. Players make hundreds more mistakes than the official in every match. That is a fact!
- There is no wisdom greater than kindness. Go out of your way to acknowledge the efforts of a referee with a smile and simple “thank you” or “good job.” It will make a world of difference.
It’s just a game.
ASK THE REFEREE
Parent Education for Competitive Players
At North Meck Soccer Club, player development is centered on the individual AND the complete environment in which the individual plays. Those of you who have previously been with the club will notice some changes, including the requirement for players to wear a certain practice uniform and the inclusion of a stronger parent education program.
At NMSC we believe that involving parents by communicating our goals and expectations contributes to the creation of a positive environment for children to develop, not only as soccer players, but as responsible individuals.
A Club Policy was created to help us in this goal: we ask the parents not to access the fields and training areas prior to and during any practice times when any players are active in training. The reasons for this new policy are as follows:
- We need to utilize the full space that we have for the players. Each team has assigned training areas and the outlining surrounding areas need to be occupied by the players' and coaches' equipment. Parents are asked to respect these boundaries and the environment which is most conducive to developing players.
- Our players need to be responsible for their training (including their gear) and not be under the scrutiny of parents from the sideline. We need to create an environment where the player is responsible for his or her own development.
- Our coaching staff needs to be fully focused on the players as they make preparations and conduct training sessions; feeling "watched" by parents can be a distraction for coaches as well as players and can have a negative impact. The environment in which our staff conducts training sessions is fundamental to developing the players and parents need to respect that boundary.
- We encourage all parents to observe practices, just from a distance and in the designated areas specified below.
Bailey – Observation of training session at the top of the hill adjacent to the parking lot
Richard Barry Park – Observation of training sessions at and outside the paved walking path
Bradford Park – Observation of training sessions at and outside the paved walking path.
We thank you in advance for your support and participation in assisting us in developing the players properly. Throughout the season our coaching staff will be available to you, just not on the training or match field. Emails are always welcome and will be responded to. This is in addition to the regular communications from coaches with parents which will occur at tournaments, evaluations and team meetings.
How We Develop Players Article 4: The Proper Role of Parents
by Elaine Mendelssohn 2/27/2006
(Editor's Note: The author has been a parent and coach of high-level college and club players.)
The proper role for parents in elite youth soccer is an important issue facing the game today. It's not an exaggeration to say that failure to understand that role, is one of the biggest problems facing youth soccer in America.
Because we have a pay-to-play system, parents are likely to feel that they have special rights compared to parents of youth players in the rest of the world. That is ironic because most parents here are probably less likely to understand the game very well, compared to parents in other countries who do understand it, but generally don't get involved.
I think there are three things parents should try to remember as their kids go through the elite youth soccer experience:
- The importance of being realistic;
- The importance of supporting the coach in his mission TO DEVELOP PLAYERS;
- Knowing the right way to make a change, should the time come for change.
The importance of being realistic
As great as it is to see how popular soccer has become around the country, popularity is not necessarily a better thing when it comes to understanding what the proper role of parents in elite soccer really is. Years ago, when you were on a Select/Travel/Elite soccer team it really meant something. You truly had to be of a certain caliber to be on this type of team.
Today, as long you pay, pretty much anybody can be on a Select team. It would be pretty unique if you wanted to have your child play Select and couldn't find a team to take you on. So this "popularity" pretty well dilutes the idea of being on a Travel team. If player development was truly going on everywhere, it would be wonderful to have all these teams, but you have to be realistic and say that's not the case. Neither coaches nor players are automatically high quality just because they are playing on a Select or Travel team.
I think by default a lot of parents think their child is the next Mia Hamm or Pele when they get started. When kids are 8, 9, 10 and you ask them where they're going to college, any boy says Indiana or UCLA and any girl says North Carolina - but a lot of parents at that age really think that's what will happen. But in reality, even very good players may not get that chance. You can choose to support your coach in making your child a better player, or you can decide that your child is better than all of that. It's not hard to find parents from the latter group and they have a way of making their presence felt on sidelines and on road trips that is not always very pleasant. And to be fair, there are a certain number of coaches coaching travel soccer simply because there are parents willing to pay for their child to be involved in travel soccer. It's important to find a club that knows the difference.
So parents need to be realistic about where their kid really fits in. They need to be honest about what they can realistically expect their child to achieve, and that should tell them something about how much time and money to invest. It's important from that end to make sure they can find an honest coach who is not just going to tell them what they want to hear - and it's important for them to accept an honest answer.
The importance of supporting the coach in his mission TO DEVELOP PLAYERS
Soccer teams set out to win matches. They always have and they always will. But at the youth level the primary mission of a good coach is to make his players better. That's not a completely separate concept from the goal to win games. Good players are who help teams win games after all, but at these younger ages, coaches should mostly be teaching and players mostly learning.
A common problem with parents is that the only way they know how to judge what the coach is doing is to see if the team won or lost, and that's a big mistake.
One of my sons played on a very successful team that won the national championship for an older age group. What people probably don't know is that some times when the team was younger, the team's coach made it clear that them learning how to play the game was more important than their winning a given game. The team did win a lot, but I remember the coach would sometimes tell the team as they came off the field in a game where they had beaten, that had done well because they worked on the very thing he wanted.
He told them he would rather see them lose the game and play well, then to kill a team and sacrifice what he was teaching them. He made that clear to those kids, and this all paid off in the end. That team learned how to play, the players learned and they won a national championship. As many players as wanted to were able to go on and play college soccer. But if the parents had gotten all worked up about the scores of some of those games when they were younger, it never would have worked. At our club there is an unwritten rule about how parents are to act, and you don't hear much on their sideline. So the club has to set the tone. But again, you have to find the right coach and trust him.
Now along with not worrying so much about winning, compared to learning, a parent also needs to make sure he or she is not interfering in the real nitty gritty of the coaching decisions. Again, parents often feel that because their child is so great (in their eyes) and because they are paying the bill, they have some natural right to get involved, but in truth, that is the worst thing they can do. The parent's job is to support the coach in his efforts. In our family, our kids have played for us and for other coaches. My husband and I both have a good soccer background. If we really want to, we could coach, but if you make the decision to let someone else coach your child, you had better go all the way and let them do it. We've told coaches "You are the coach, we'd just like to watch." You have to get to a point where once you make a decision to put your kid on the team, you are going to trust the coach.
You can do this both within the parent group on your team and with your own child.
We see parents complaining about this or that decision all the time. A common complaint is over what position the child is playing. I've had parents try to get me riled up as a parent because my child wasn't playing as much or wasn't playing a certain position.
I try to answer by saying things like "I like him being versatile. I'm impressed that he can play more than one position." Now we both had coaching backgrounds but we didn't want to be interfering in that role. I think it's logical to think that parents who don't have any soccer background should also let the coach do their job. Yes you're paying a lot of money, but that's just the way the game works in this country. It still doesn't help if parents are getting involved with the coach's decisions.
You can help set a tone as a parent by not getting involved in these little beehive discussions where a coach's decision in a U12 game gets treated like a decision to double the income tax or something. Remember, his job is to coach, and you need to support him in that. Otherwise, you'll drive yourself crazy over 'my son should play a different position' or 'my daughter should play more,' or whatever the case may be. You have to remember that the team plan does not revolve around your child.
As I said, the other way you can really help support the coach is in reinforcing his work with your own child. You should encourage your children to whatever potential the coach is encouraging them toward. If your child gets in the car after practice and says "coach said I need to do this and that, then you need to trust it and say that's a good thing. So many times, I'll hear a parent leaving the field with their child and saying something like "He's an idiot. He doesn't know what he's talking about." Now how is a coach going to have a chance with a player if his parents are talking about him like that?
Knowing the right way to make a change
Ultimately you have to have faith in your child's coach, or your child shouldn't be playing. Letting go of that level of control is one of the hardest things for a parent.
But it's also true that there are very real reasons for a player to leave a team. You may have a genuinely talented player whose ambitions lie above those of his teammates. With there being so many travel teams now, some teams may have a foot firmly planted in rec soccer mentality, while others may be looking for every competitive and developmental opportunity. As your child gets older, you don't want to be unequally yoked.
But there's a right way to go about this. It's a good chance to model something for your child as far as handling yourself professionally, being honest and sincere. Too often soccer team switches are conducted by parents like some political deal in a smoke-filled back room. Too often team moves end up being like nasty church splits, business breakups or messy divorces. If you are looking after the best interest of your child you can be discreet without being sneaky.
The best rule of thumb to follow is to be up front about everything. If you have different goals than your teams, just recognize it and find the right opportunity. You also should concentrate on your own child. If another situation is better for your son or daughter, you don't have to try and convince half of the team you are on to do the same thing. Let people make up their own minds.
If people on the team you are leaving start sniping over your decision, just let it go. To do otherwise is simply to get your child embroiled in a controversy that will only detract from their enjoyment of the game, and their chance to succeed at it.
Now I know none of this is as easy as it sounds. But it really is a pretty simple formula You need to be realistic about goals. You need to find a coach who can do the work of training a player, and trust them, and always remember that there is a right way of going about it when changes have to be made.
This experience should be a healthy thing. Let yourself and your child enjoy it. If the child can feel good about the role they are playing, they are going to learn more and play better. You should see yourself as much more of a custodian than a driver in the process. They are still "your" kids of course, but that doesn't make you a soccer expert.
It's so much more simple and enjoyable for you to watch your child play when you're taking it a year at a time and keeping it in perspective Yes there are exceptions when you know something is wrong and you have to move on, but you have to trust for it to have a chance. It's very sad how so many parents it takes until their kids are 15 or 16 before they realize they were spending all this time stressed out.
If we're going to spend all this time and money on this, we might as well enjoy it along the way.
Young players are extremely sensitive to external factors surrounding the game. As a parent, your actions and words carry more weight than you may be fully aware – both in the heat of the moment and on a daily basis in the car and household, after games, prior, and in between. They have implications on your child’s development, confidence, self-image and ability to enjoy the game of soccer – these elements are our great focus as coaches and yet we have such minimal influence compared to the parents. What are the stakes? Nothing less than your child’s development in and out of soccer, and the relationship you create with him or her for a lifetime.
From our deepest commitment to the best interest of the kids, we have assembled the following expectations of all parents and families, whether they be new or returning to NMSC in 2010-2011.
- Encourage and support your child.
- Help and manage your child’s expectations and aspirations.
- Promote and exemplify good sportsmanship.
- Do not coach from the sidelines.
- Do not exclaim or berate your child for mistakes during or after games.
- Do not disparage or undermine your child’s coach or teammates on the sideline or at home.
- Do not engage in negative comments with or directed at opposing players, parents or the Referee. This will not be tolerated at all.
- By signing this you agree to follow the Club’s Communication Protocol.
»Sideline commentary must be limited to praise and encouragement of your daughter and her teammates. Please control the tone and volume of your voice. What you might consider helpful information from the sideline is more likely distracting, startling, and confusing during the flow of play AND after the match.
»Direct and indirect commentary that can in any way be construed as negative or sarcastic, concerning officials, the opponent, the coach, or our own players is unacceptable. Whether this happens on the sidelines or in your own home or in the form of mass emails, it is detrimental first and foremost to your own child, not to mention the team and the club. For the sake of our players and the experience of all members young and old, NMSC will not tolerate this representation and neither should our families and players be subjected to it.
»These lessons are as easily contradicted as they are reinforced by parents’ conduct and attitudes. JUST IMAGINE if we could preserve the atmosphere and environment of fun concurrently with the developmental aspects we push for every day on the field. We do not believe this Parent & Club envelope has been pushed - as an NMSC parent you can help us blaze a new trail.
SERVICE AGREEMENT FOR NMSC MEMBERS
NMSC is asking for full family/player support as the club moves forward and continues tremendous growth. Each family/player will need to commit themselves to five (5) hours of service for each season or ten (10) hours of service for the year. All NMSC members will be required to agree to the service requirement before membership within the club is approved. The service hours will be tracked and recorded by a team Volunteer Liaison who will assist in coordinating all volunteer activities. A full list of volunteer opportunities including detailed descriptions, time requirement, and location will be available prior to the start of the 2010-2011 Players can commit to service hours but must be under the supervision of a parent while volunteering.
NMSC has this vision for you, your child, and our club – are you on board?