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Soccer

What Your Child’s Soccer Coach Wishes You Knew

What should you shout from the sidelines during games? See what soccer coaches really think — and other tips they wish parents knew.

By Katherine Teel

soccer-coaches
Maybe you cheer from the sidelines, letting your child know how much you support her. Or maybe you coach from the sidelines, shouting things like “Take it up the outside!” or “Why’d you stop?!” Or maybe you drop off your child and run errands. As parents, we want to “get it right” as often as possible, but with many things in parenting, there’s no real rule book. That’s why we asked long-time coaching couple Lew and Ruth Ann West for some advice on how to encourage your kids, how to support the coaches, and what behaviors they never want to see again!

The Wests know whereof they speak: They’ve been on both sides of the field — as both coaches and soccer parents. For the past 15 years, they’ve coached co-ed recreational soccer teams ranging in age from 4 to 16. And two of their daughters are soccer players: Their middle child was skilled enough to receive college scholarship offers, while their petite, dimpled 11-year-old daughter tears up the field like a beast as part of the Wests’ current team. To be sure, these coach/parents have carefully considered what they think works best, and one look at their team records over the years tends to support their theories.

Ready for a little coaching of your own? Take a deep breath, and read on to see if it might be time to rethink a few of the things you’re doing at your child’s practices and games.

Find a list of soccer classes, clinics & camps near you > >

Sometimes It’s Good to Stick Your Nose (or Foot) In

It’s hard for parents to know how involved to be with their kids. If you sit and watch every practice, you might be helicoptering, but if you leave you might be abandoning them. “We like to have parents there,” says Ruth Ann, “because when the parents stay, they have opportunities to engage with the kids during practice.” For instance, when the team is one person short, a parent can sub in during a two-person drill or participate in a scrimmage as a player or referee.

Lew also likes the parents to see all of the effort the players put into practice time. “Kids these days work incredibly hard at the things they care about,” he says, “and I like for parents to see that.”

Yell All You Want … But You’re Not the Coach

“We love when the parents are positive and cheer from the sidelines,” Ruth Ann says. Her coaching style reflects that enthusiasm — she’s loud and laughs a lot, and every shout is a yell of of encouragement. “Definitely,” agrees Lew. “But there’s a difference between yelling encouragement and coaching from the stands. Sometimes parents contradict what the coaches are telling the players.” Other types of parent participation the Wests could do without: Criticizing the ref, yelling negatives (“Who were you passing to!?”), and working themselves up over a bad call. In general, if you feel your blood starting to boil, it’s probably time to take a lap — or a deep breath.

Parents behavior on the sidelines

The Kids Can’t Hear You Anyway …

Just ask your child, if you don’t believe it: The reality is that most of the time, those players can’t hear you — no matter what you shout. They are running fast, breathing hard, and battling over an ever-moving orb. The last thing they have time for is to stop and listen to parental advice.

But the Other Adults Sure Can!

“The worst part about rude or aggressive shouting is that it ruins the game for the other families,” Ruth Ann cautions. “Your child probably doesn’t know what you said, but the parents you have to sit near at next week’s game certainly do.” Also keep this in mind: Some of those parents may be recording the game on video (and audio) — including your shouts and conversations. Make sure what you say is worthy of being preserved for posterity.

A Good Soccer Coach Isn’t Necessarily Out to Win

As soccer parents, the Wests have dealt with their share of other coaches, which has helped inform their approach today. “A good coach takes a group of kids and helps them become a team,” Ruth Ann says. They do this, she explains, by helping children create a work ethic that includes hard work and team building, and at the same time, they make the experience fun.

“The difference between a good coach and a bad one is the focus that coach has,” Lew adds. “By focus, I mean, is their only goal to win, or to teach the love of the game and teamwork?” At heart, we all know that developing young minds and characters is more important than winning — and it’s a wonderful fringe benefit of being involved in a team sport.

How Does Your Child’s Soccer Program Measure Up?

Whether you’re interested in getting your child started in soccer — or maybe just finding a team that’s a better fit — ActivityHero can help. If you don’t love your coach’s style or the emotions it brings out in you and your child, don’t be afraid to take a look at what else is out there. And if your child is looking for a great team sport to try, there’s no time like the present.

Find a list of soccer classes, clinics & camps near you > >

Categories
After-School Activities

Girls Sports Have Unexpected Mental Health Benefits

Girls gain many things from playing sports. From self-esteem to physical fitness, there are some great reasons to get your daughter involved in a competitive girls sports team.

If you are new to the world of female athletes, then there is a lot to learn. First and foremost, be prepared for what your family is about to take on. If you have boys in the family already involved in sports, you are likely used to the commitment level involved. If not, say goodbye to free weekends and extra spending money – but also say hello to great family camaraderie and a whole slew of new friends.

For your girl, new friends are the first perk of participating in girls sports. Sports teams are a great way to build relationships with new girls, especially if you have just moved to a new town or your daughter is exceptionally shy. The bond is often fast too, thanks to the importance of learning to work together as a group to score points and win games.

With new friends being made, and knowing that others are depending on them, girls get a self-esteem boost from sports. Unfortunately, this can sometimes go in the opposite direction, but usually, it is a great way to get a timid girl to come out of her shell. Many quietly focused girls excel at sports and begin to learn to get outside of themselves a bit more.

A great benefit for the adults and siblings in your daughter’s life is the fact she will likely be less moody. The pouting and complaining stereotypical of young girls (come on, we know you’ve seen it) is likely to fade somewhat thanks to that healthy dose of endorphins pumping through her body during practice and game time. Exercise is a powerful antidepressant, and girls often feel better about not only themselves but the world around them when their bodies get moving.

Sports are just plain healthy. It is important for young women to learn how to eat properly, and also be emotionally healthy by learning to balance schoolwork and social life with being on a sports team. Girls who enjoy being busy will thrive at this, while others will need a bit more time to adjust to a crazier way of living. When everyone has found their groove again, you can rest assured that the physical and mental health of playing sports far outweighs any sacrifice. And, depending upon your daughter’s specific needs, this success can be found in either team or individual competitive sports.