Being a soccer parent is a rewarding and fulfilling role, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. To help your child have a positive experience in youth soccer, it's crucial to understand and embrace specific behaviors and guidelines. In this blog post, we'll explore ten essential tips for soccer parents that will help you navigate youth soccer with success and create a positive environment for your child.
To help us with this post we reached out to Ed Bernstein of Great Lakes Alliance (GLA). Ed has been in youth soccer for decades and has experience as a parent, coach, club director and runs US Club Soccer Leagues all across the region including GLA NPL & Premier, GLA ECNL-RL, ORL Pre-ECNL, CASA along with other leagues, tournaments and player development events. GLA is also a sponsor of Ohio Soccer Moms and Dads and Premier Insider.
1. Avoid Coaching Your Kids During the Game:
One of the most important rules for soccer parents is to resist the urge to coach your child during the game. Let the coach handle the instructions and strategy. Your child already has enough on their plate during the game, so your role is to be a supportive and encouraging presence.
“Soccer parents can contribute to a positive and supportive environment for youth soccer players by offering unwavering encouragement,” Ed Bernstein of Great Lakes Alliance explains that “focusing on their child's enjoyment of the game, and respecting coaches, referees, and opposing players is always best practice.”
2. Refrain from Commenting on Other Children's Play:
It's essential to maintain a positive and supportive atmosphere during matches. Avoid making comments, whether positive or negative, about the performance of other children, whether they are on your team or the opposing team.
3. No Negative Comments to the Referee:
Critiquing or berating the referee can create a hostile environment. Remember that referees are doing their best, and badgering them is counterproductive. Instead, applaud their efforts and the role they play in the game.
“This is one of the biggest issues we have in youth sports across the board.” Bernstein explained that at his events there is a zero tolerance policy for referee abuse. “Coaches and parents who approach competitions with the understanding that addressing referees is inappropriate off limits, always have a better experience.”
4. Applaud Good Play and Sportsmanship:
Always acknowledge and applaud good plays and displays of sportsmanship, both from your child's team and the opposing team. It sets a positive example for your child and promotes a culture of respect and fairness.
5. View the Other Parents as Partners:
Consider the parents of the opposing team as partners on a journey to support youth soccer. Maintain a friendly and respectful attitude towards them, fostering a sense of camaraderie. If you have concerns or disagreements with other parents' behavior, address those concerns directly with the coach or club, rather than criticizing them publicly. Keep the focus on the kids and the game.
6. Educate Yourself About the Rules:
Understanding the rules of soccer, especially nuances like the offside rule, can go a long way in preventing sideline chaos. Seek out a knowledgeable parent who can help explain the rules and game intricacies.
It's frustrating to be the one who shouts, “How is that a foul!?" or “Offsides!” when everyone else knows better. By educating ourselves about the sport, we set a positive example for our children, teaching them the value of knowledge, respect, and sportsmanship.
“The laws of the game are not complicated once you get to know the game but parents that are just getting to know the game often struggle,” explained Bernstein. “IFAB will update interpretations every year, which can cause confusion – we also have to take into account the US Soccer Federation and their recommendations for small sided games, heading other minor adjustments. It can be a lot, even for a parent that understands the professional game.” He suggests parents not only try to learn the Laws of the Game but also read the rules for their individual leagues and tournaments.
7. Treat Guest Players with Respect:
In youth soccer, you may have guest players on your team from time to time. Always treat these players with kindness and respect, just as you would your child's regular teammates.
8. Discuss Issue Such as Playing Time Privately with the Coach:
If you have concerns about your child's playing time, have a private and respectful conversation with the coach. Avoid discussing other children's playing time, as this can create unnecessary tension.
9. Applaud the Opposing Team and Referee:
After the game, remember to applaud the opposing team and the referee, regardless of the outcome. It demonstrates sportsmanship and sets a positive example for your child.
10. Keep the Car Ride Home Positive:
On the car ride home, focus on the positive aspects of the game and your child's performance. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or criticism. A simple "I enjoyed watching you play today" can go a long way in maintaining a positive atmosphere.
Bernstein shared that “more damage is done on a negative car ride home.” He went on to explain that parents who speak negatively to their players or to others in front of their player are only hurting their player. “Parents would ask their players questions like ‘How do you think you did?’ Even when your player feels they played poorly, you should help them assess their play by asking ‘What could you have done better?’ not critiquing their play but pointing out the positives and giving them the time to think through their own play.”
As a soccer parent, your role is pivotal in shaping your child's experience in youth soccer. By following these ten essential tips, you can create a supportive and positive environment that allows your child to thrive and enjoy the game. Remember that youth soccer is not just about the game itself but also about the life lessons and values that your child will carry with them throughout their journey.