your child a winner
by Gary Williamson, NTSSA State Coach,
reproduced by permission
North Texas Soccer Organisation
I often hear the
comment "Oh well it’s just a game!"
Playing on a soccer
team can be an important experience in your child’s life. Participation
can help your child physically and personally. However, placing your child
on a soccer team does not guarantee a beneficial experience.
As a parent you
can help your child have a positive experience in playing soccer.
The type of
support you give your child can make soccer fun and rewarding or the cause
of anxiety and stress. You can motivate your child and help to develop a
healthy, positive self-image.
Here are some
soccer to have fun.
They also play to
learn and improve their skills, to enjoy exciting times, to be with
friends, and to stay in shape. In order to maintain or improve your
child’s motivation for playing soccer, find out why they like to
participate and support their reasons for playing.
Success in Soccer
is more than just winning.
equate winning with success and losing with failure. If children win a
game, they feel good or worthy. If they lose they feel incompetent or
unworthy. This attitude toward winning can be discouraging to children,
unless they are always winning. One of your most important roles,
therefore, is to help your child keep winning in proper perspective. Try
to redefine success in terms of the actual performance or how well your
child and the team played. Focussing on the performance rather than the
outcome helps keep the game in perspective.
Your child may also
need guidance in how to deal with success. I n winning, two things can
happen. Long run success may come to easily that the competitive game
loses its challenge. Your child may become complacent and/or arrogant.
Conversely the pressure to win may result in a lack of motivation if your
child dreads playing in fear of failure. Your child may not be able to
perform well and may want to quit. Give encouragement and positive support
if this is the case. It is important that you assist your child in
understanding their contribution to the team’s overall performance
Your child needs to
know that striving to win is important. Being successful in soccer also
means making improvements and striving to do one’s best. You can help
develop this winning attitude in your child by encouraging maximum effort
during practices and games, rewarding their improvements in mastering
skills, and supporting your child to try their best. The will to win is
important but the will to prepare to win is of greater value.
inevitable if your child plays soccer.
Your child must
learn to accept themselves after a loss, this is an important part of
participation in the game. Instead of finding excuses it is important for
your child to understand the reasons why the team lost. Such reasons may
include superior competition, too many mistakes, poor preparation to
compete at this level, or maybe the players have a poor attitude. Whatever
the reasons your child needs to regroup. Focus on better preparation
physically and mentally for training and the next game so he/she can do
better next time. This is a valuable lesson.
will help your child.
performances with past performances to determine whether your child has
been successful. Your child must experience success at a level that
demands his/her best effort. When your child’s skill level improves they
realize that effort equals success, and will feel a sense of
improvements, good plays, and good behaviour.
Remember to praise
effort—not just good performance—this will motivate your child to try
hard. The best way to encourage is by praising or with physical response:
a pat on the back, thumbs up, or smile. Try to avoid giving money or other
material rewards, which may turn play into work and have a negative
Mistakes are part
of learning the game of soccer
Your child will make
plenty of them. When your child makes a mistake, they know. They do not
need reminding by you. That’s when they need your encouragement: "Great
try!" "Good run!" "You’ll get it next time!" "Super game!". You cannot
play the game for your child. Let them make decisions and learn through
trial and error. Be patient and assist. If your child displays continual
frustration, you can help by giving ideas, or practicing with your child
on his/her skills to correct mistakes.
and punishing your child for mistakes
If you do your child
may fear failure. In turn this could lead to stress and worry about not
performing well and to dread the possible disapproval of parents, coaches,
and teammates. Never be negative to someone else’s child. It hurts the
child and parents. It also creates unwanted tension. Negative criticism
hinders rather than improves performance for the individual and the team.
As the number and
variety of soccer teams flourish, it becomes increasingly necessary for
you to investigate the suitability of the different programs for your
child. You have the right and responsibility to ask questions before
allowing your child to participate on a soccer team. Seek to find a
compatible match between the philosophy of the program and the reason why
your child wants to participate in soccer.
Words of caution
your child is perfectly natural
You want your child
to be successful. Be careful not to live out your own dreams through your
child. Seeing a child’s performance in sports as a reflection of one’s
self-worth and success can result in parents setting unrealistically high
goals for their child. This can place pressure to perform beyond their
capability, a major cause for stress in soccer for children.
Be mindful of your
behaviour at games. You expect your son or daughter to show good
sportsmanship and self-control. As the parent you need to exhibit
appropriate behaviour yourself, no matter how frustrating it may be to see
a poor call or bad play.
During games and
practices, leave the coaching to the coach. It confuses players when they
receive instructions from more than one source. Your child has the ball,
their mind is racing, here comes a defender or two, a split second
decision is necessary. Then suddenly from the sidelines: "Shoot!",
"Pass!", "Cross!", "Kick it!"
your child hesitates and is stripped of the ball. Then we hear from the
sidelines: "Why didn’t you shoot?". Children go out on the field to do
their best, and they expect their parents to do the same.
Many of the adult
leaders are unpaid volunteers. As a parent, you should be realistic in
your expectations. However, the adult leaders that your child is
associated with should possess some basic characteristics, which are
favourable to the development of young people. Adults you would like to see
your child imitate.
Avoid punishing your
child when their team loses. If you do, losses are viewed as personal
failures, a blow to their self worth. Teach your child how to cope with
failure. Help your child to understand that no one does everything
well. Show your child that failure presents a challenge and provides an
opportunity to learn. Allow your child "space" to do things alone. This
may require more patience on your part, but it will pay off in the long
run. Respect your child’s feelings and thoughts.
You must be
sensitive to your growing child as they develop physically, mentally and
socially. You must realize that your child is not a miniature adult, and
they have a right to play in an environment that is developmentally
appropriate to their age and ability.
It’s Just A Game!
There is no
guarantee that soccer can instil self-discipline or build character.
There are plenty of good lessons mixed with soccer instruction and
participation. Experiencing "the game" is of greater value than cheap
trophies. Success comes from self-discipline, perseverance, paying the
price, and playing within the rules. Adversity builds resilience. Teamwork
brings rewards. Unique individual talents and achievements are also highly
valued. As a parent I hope you are teaching your child more than just the
ability to run faster or kick the ball harder or winning the game at all
Playing the game of
soccer is fun, but there are times when we must ask, at what cost? Do you
want to win so badly that your family turns out to be the losers? If
recreational soccer adds to the stress it should relieve because you focus
on the score, the game has become more important than the children who
For example, when
the youth coach defeated their arch rivals at the local league game, it
cost them one red card and five yellows. Moreover, one player was
"taken-out" (injured for the season), and three players will miss the next
game through injury. All this in addition to the referee’s report of
unsporting behaviour and verbal abuse by players and adults who constantly
berated the opposition and officials during the game.
After the game one
of the parents congratulated the coach on his victory, and the coach
replied, "Another such victory, and we are ruined."