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Attending Games

How to behave at a children's soccer game

1. Be positive. Be supportive. Cheer for the team. Encourage all of the players. Keep negative comments to yourself, especially those directedat another parent's child. Remember that the players are doing the best that they can and that playing good soccer is more difficult than it looks.

2. Do not coach. Let the coaches make adjustments as they see the need. Many times the instruction from a spectator is exactly the opposite of the instruction given by the coach. Allow the players the freedom to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes. Spectator statements like "Stay Wide," Clear It," "Pass The Ball," "Get Rid of It," "Move Up," "Move Back," etc., tend to undermine the need for players to communicate with each other.

3. Never address players on the other team, except to encourage.

4. Treat the officials with respect. All officials make mistakes. All humans make mistakes. Let the officials be human. Let the coaches approach the officials if they feel the need. The referee may be wrong, but not as often as you are? Have you ever seen a referee change his mind because a parent shouted at him or her?

5. Do not engage is game-related discussions with parents from the opposing team. We will be playing these teams for many years to come. We want to be known in the soccer community as an organization that has class whether we win, lose or draw. The game score will not be remembered. The argument or inappropriate remarks will be.

6. Leave the game on the field. When the game is over, no amount of comment, question or discussion with the players, officials or coaches can change the outcome. Regardless of the outcome, the coaches will evaluate the performance, reinforce the good things and work to correct the things needing improvement.

7. Keep the game fun. Winning is more fun than losing, but each player shuld enjoy playing because they love the game. Avoid offering bribes or "pumping up" your child. Allow them to become self-motivated. Make sure that you take time to enjoy the game yourself. I have heard comments from some of the team that they dread it when their parents start shouting at the referee. It is noticeable that when some parents get more and more agitated, their child gets more and more withdrawn during the game.

Think about your own job. If you have someone who you knew was going to shout at you every time you made a mistake, wouldn't you stop putting yourself in the position to make thie mistake? That is what happens with some of the players on the team. they would rather not have the ball than risk having it and making a mistake!

Parental Behavior can have a negative impact on your player.

Here are five behaviors seen from parents that can have a dramatic impact on kids and their soccer development:

1. They don’t encourage their player to make mistakes

It seems contradictory, but yes, we want players to make mistakes…this is how they learn best! With so much focus on mastering skills and winning matches, not enough players put themselves out there to take risks. A wise colleague of mine always tells her players to “Be brave. Make mistakes.”

Most kids want the approval of their parent and coach, and they need to know you encourage this and you will applaud the fact that they tried, even if they fail. Because ultimately, they don’t fail. They learn something from that moment that is invaluable and that will help them grow as a player and as a person. 

Instead of the kid who passes the ball all the time because they are afraid to take on a player 1v1, the brave player will learn when it’s best to dribble and when it’s best to pass, without hesitation or fear.

2. They fight battles that aren’t theirs to fight

Have you ever approached a coach about how your kid didn’t get enough playing time? I can tell you right now that this is the conversation every coach hates to have with a parent, and it likely won’t help your child in any way. Instead, encourage your player to take ownership of their game and their development as a player.

They should (at a certain age) be the one to approach the coach if they have a question or concern. I promise you this will go over better with the coach, will likely result in more useful information, and it will also teach your child a number of lessons that can be applied to their life on and off the field.

3. They don’t engage their players in the development process

How much do you know about what your player is working on during training? I encourage you to find out! This doesn’t mean calling up the coach or club and asking for their practice plans.

Instead, engage your child in a conversation about skills or ideas that they’re learning and what they find challenging. This can also lead to helping your player set personal goals in their own development.

4. They coach and cheer for the wrong things on game day

We’ve all heard that parent on the sideline scream “Shoot it!” or “Pass it!” Maybe it’s you. It’s natural to want to help your player on the field, but this does not help. This is a parent who is guilty of both No. 1 and No. 3. These directions can cause anxiety for a player already under pressure on the field. In fact, they may even directly contradict what their coach has instructed them to do.

Even if you are a USSF A-licensed coach, do not coach on the sidelines unless you are the coach of that particular team. Instead, stick to basic encouragement and cheering. Did you find out (after engaging your kid in the development process) that your child is working on mastering a specific move during training, or building confidence in using their left foot? If you see them do that in a game, go crazy and let them know you saw them try it.

5. They analyze the game with their player afterwards

What is your postgame ritual with your child? Do you start analyzing the game and what your player did right or wrong before you even get in the car? Believe me – your child knows what they did wrong. If they don’t, it’s likely their coach or a teammate has already told them.

The best thing you can say to your player after a game is how much fun you had watching them. If they engage you in a postgame talk, go for it. But instead of a full-game analysis, try picking out some things they did in the game that you know he or she has been working on.