Parents Role During Games

Youth soccer parents and coaches are infamous for being categorized as the crazy, obnoxious, boisterous "Sideline Generals". From the comfort of our lawn chairs we are very good at directing players, making calls for referees, and sometimes even gathering to have your own coaching discussion about the coaches coaching decisions.    

I want to discuss our expectations about sideline instructions. (Keep reading) I think I can speak for all coaches and players when I say, we want to hear cheers, applauds, and you making noise! What I ask of our Cajun Soccer Club parents/family and even our Cajun Soccer Club coaches is to minimize the sideline instruction. Although providing clear instruction and guidance at appropriate moments can facilitate young players' learning, many of us make the mistake of relentlessly bombarding youngsters with information and directions during games. We fail to understand that when we take this approach we end up creating a chaotic commotion that serves no help to anyone and simply suppresses the player's liberty to make their own decisions. For example, some of the most popular phrases that can be heard from the sideline are:

- "Pass it!"
- "Shoot!"
- "BOOT it!"
- "Be Aggressive!"
- "Not in there!"
Soccer is a player-centered sport. Soccer players have to make their own decisions in the moment whether it be wrong or right, they have to make it and learn from it. They have to rely on imagination, spontaneity, and creativity to create chances for themselves. So, how do we expect to create a team that can possess the ball and complete good passes if we don't cheer for complete passes. Instead we sometimes cheer for the hardest kick up the field. We don't hear shouts and celebrations when a player wins a tackle or controls a ball out of the air. We're quick to shout "Pass it!" Or "Shoot!" and having taken away that idea from the player, we won't find out what the player would have done to begin with. We miss out on watching a player express themselves in a game that is theirs to begin with, so Cheer Don't Steer and enjoy the game. 

The importance of body language is something I've tried to constantly remind our players about and how much our body actually communicates. I try to remind them to unfold their arms, stand up straight, and when something goes wrong... pick your head up. Body language, from what I've learned, has a direct affect with how we feel about ourselves. If we drop our head and slump our shoulders than we're most likely feeling down and blah. If we sit alert in our chair, on the edge of our seat, and make eye contact than we're most likely to absorb information, listen, and improve. 

I have seen time and time again players try to execute a certain action on the field (i.e. lose the ball or even score a goal) and immediately look over to the parent or the coach for instant gratification. This is actually said to suffocate progress and deter a student or athlete from working harder because every action needs to be validated. We, as coaches and as parents, throw our hands in the air, shout like crazy, highlight their mistake, and even physically and metaphorically speaking, turn our back on the players. All of this does nothing to improve a players chances to excel, it breaks them down, discourages their interest in the game, and keeps them from enjoying the "game". 

It's important, as adults, to be able to step back and keep things in perspective. Games and kids will get heated and may act in the heat of the moment, but they should look over to us and be reminded to be better. Our body language should remind them to relax, mistakes are ok, and keep playing. Parent Education is very important and I take this part of the job very seriously. If we better ourselves through coaching and parent education then we'll create a better environment for our kids, so they can excel to the highest of their potential


Parents Role in the College Recruiting Process

A parent’s No. 1 role is to advise and guide the player through the process. Be there to provide structure, support and encouragement. If the player truly wants to play college soccer, they should be the one driving the process. There will be ups and downs, so enjoy the ride. Above all, encourage your child to drive their process, be proactive and realistic in their college search.

“A lot of parents try to take on the recruiting process for their child,” said an anonymous head college coach. “They write all the emails and when they come on campus they do more talking than their child. As coaches, we want to get to know the parents, but it’s most important to get to know the player. We want players who take the initiative on and off the field.”

Here are the top five misconceptions of a parent’s role in the recruiting process:

1. When a parent is writing the emails and calling the coaches…

  • It’s obvious when a parent has written the email. Coaches always notice and are impressed with players who are diligent with their emails and calls. It shows accountability, maturity, initiative and desire. College coaches are looking for these characteristics in the players that they are recruiting. Many parents think they are “helping” their child out by writing the emails for them. However, they are actually only hurting their child’s chances at being recruited.

2. When a parent is more excited than the player…

  • Red flag. Coaches will not pursue any player where the parent is driving the motivation and desire to play college soccer. It is quite apparent when kids have a genuine enthusiasm for a college or program. College coaches truly appreciate personalized emails. This shows that the player follows the team and has a genuine interest in what is going on with the program.

3. When a parent takes over the recruiting visit…

  • A visit is the coach’s time with the recruit. Don’t make it about you, and don’t talk more than your son/daughter. And certainly don’t come across as wanting it more than them. Coaches want to get to know the parents, but it’s most important to get to know the player. They actively recruit players, who take the initiative during the recruiting process by showing leadership and maturity on and off the field.

4. When a parent makes “money” the first topic of discussion…

  • One of the most important aspects of the recruiting process is getting a feel for a school and the program/staff. The player should be asking themselves: “Could I see myself living and playing soccer here for the next four years? Will my academic, social and soccer goals be met at this college?” Once you have those questions answered, finances will probably be your next step. Many times the college coach will bring up the “money talk.” However, if not, make sure you do so in a very tactful way. Coaches don’t want to feel as if they are being pressured or “wheeling and dealing” in a sales environment. If money is of concern, it’s okay to bring it up, just remember to be tactful, honest and you might not always hear what you are hoping for.

5. When a parent assumes their son/daughter is getting a full-ride…

  • Parents always talk about “scholarship” or “full ride” when seeing other teammates sign their Letter of Intent. There are many misconceptions when it comes to scholarships. For example, a Division I program can have a maximum of 14 scholarships. An average college roster is close to 30 players, so full scholarships are rare. Most programs divide up their full rides to offer partial scholarships, or provide players an opportunity to prove themselves to earn % scholarships during the course of their four years. The biggest ticket most players have into a school is a strong academic transcript. Good grades are vital and can open the door to many colleges and provide opportunities for academic aide. Coaches are always keen on players that have a strong academic foundation.