Many parents fail their kids.
While it is great for kids to jump into the sport of soccer at an early age, it is our job (as parents) to help cultivate their own love for the game.
Letting them be kids while playing soccer is crucial to their overall development and enjoyment of the sport.
As a parent, it can be tempting to push your child to excel in soccer and give them training opportunities to support their drive.
However, it is equally important to remember that they are kids and this is their only shot at living a purposeful life before all the ‘real life’ responsibilities. They need time to relax and have fun.
This means allowing them to take breaks from soccer and participate in other activities, spend time with friends, or simply sit on the couch playing video games.
By doing so, they will be more motivated and excited to play soccer when they do return to the field…on their own terms.
Enjoyment of the game and not living through your child should be priority #1 and #2.
Outside of this, as a parent, you can create a positive environment, support their development and be their biggest cheerleader.
The Importance of Letting Kids Be Kids in Soccer
It is important to remember that soccer is ultimately a game and should be a fun and enjoyable experience for kids.
Letting kids be kids in soccer can have numerous benefits for their development both on and off the field.
One of the most important aspects of letting kids be kids in soccer is encouraging creativity on the field.
When kids are allowed to express themselves freely, they are more likely to experiment with new moves and techniques, which can ultimately lead to improved performance.
By giving kids the freedom to try new things, coaches and parents can help foster a sense of innovation and creativity that can translate to other areas of their lives.
Fostering a Love for the Game
When kids are forced to focus solely on winning and performing well, they can quickly become burnt out and lose interest in playing altogether.
By allowing kids to have fun and enjoy the game, coaches and parents can help instill a lifelong love of soccer that can lead to continued participation and success.
Ultimately, the key is to focus on their development and enjoyment of the game rather than solely on their performance.
Playing the game of soccer should come internally from joy and excitement rather than ‘I have to because my Mom and Dad said I need to’ type of attitude.
The Negative Effects of Over-Competitiveness
Burnout and Injury
Many youth athletes are shifting to playing year-round and focusing on one sport.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “It is also less common now to have a multisport athlete in middle or high school, because the norm has become for young athletes to specialize in a single sport at younger ages. There is increased pressure to participate at a high level, to specialize in 1 sport early, and to play year-round, often on multiple teams. This increased emphasis on sports specialization has led to an increase in overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout.”
Burnout can cause kids to lose interest in the sport they once loved, and, in some cases, even lead to depression and anxiety.
As parents, we need to advocate for our children. Sometimes our kids stay silent because they don’t want to let their parents down. It’s important to continually have conversations with them and gauge their interest check-in on how they are feeling physically and emotionally.
Over-competitiveness in youth soccer can also lead to decreased enjoyment.
For example, a coach that is so focused on winning or screaming when players make mistakes can lead to increased stress and anxiousness.
The result of this can lead to lower self-esteem which can spill over into other aspects of life.
Coaches and parents should find a healthy balance between competition and fun.
If you find your child not enjoying the game anymore, try changing it up. Play with them in the backyard, take them to a professional soccer match if you have the means to do so, or just go to the movies.
Kids should love going to practice and playing in games. If they don’t, what’s the point?
How Coaches and Parents Can Help
Emphasizing Fun and Learning
Soccer should be a positive experience for kids, and they should be encouraged to enjoy the game and learn new skills.
Coaches should create a positive and supportive environment, where kids feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them.
Parents can support this by encouraging their kids to have fun and not putting too much pressure on them to win. Before every practice and game, kids should leave the car hearing, “just go have fun!”
Kids are so impressionable and they stick to every word you say. Give them positive feedback, encouragement and an outlet to play the game they love.
Setting Realistic Expectations
While it’s important to challenge kids and encourage them to improve, it’s also important to recognize their limitations and not push them too hard.
Coaches should make sure that their expectations are appropriate for the age and skill level of their players. For example, as a coach, you can’t expect U7 players to keep their positioning at all times. Give them more freedom to run around and put themselves in different positions.
Parents should have a long-term view when it comes to the development of their child.
Yes, many parents think their child is the next Messi but that thinking puts too much pressure on you and the child. As long as they are getting better and they love the sport, they will maximize their abilities…over time.
Parents Living Through Their Children
This is a biggie.
Parents living through their children is a phenomenon that has become increasingly common.
This occurs when parents become overly invested in their children’s lives, often to the point where they prioritize their own aspirations and desires over their children’s well-being.
I’ve seen it first-hand and I think it stems from a parent’s insecurities.
While it is understandable for parents to want their children to succeed, the problem arises when they begin to view their children’s achievements as a reflection of their own worth.
This can lead to a range of unhealthy behaviors, such as pushing their children to excel in areas that they are not interested in, or pressuring them to pursue sports that they do not enjoy.
In extreme cases, parents may even try to live vicariously through their children, reliving their own unfulfilled dreams through their child.
This can put an enormous amount of pressure on children, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
It is important for parents to remember that their children are individuals with their own unique talents and interests. While it is natural to want the best for them, it is important to respect their autonomy and allow them to pursue their own passions and goals.
Ultimately, parents who live through their children are doing a disservice to both themselves and their children.
By placing too much emphasis on their children’s achievements, they are missing out on the joys of parenthood, such as nurturing their children’s emotional and social development.
At the same time, they are robbing their children of the opportunity to discover their own strengths and passions, and to develop a sense of independence and self-confidence.
Let the kids play. Enjoy watching them. Work together, as individuals, to pursue a sport that brings pure joy out of the player.
If you live through your child or push them too much, you’ll look back on these times and regret it.
As parents and coaches, it is important to remember that youth soccer is about more than just winning or developing the next superstar athlete.
At the end of the day, it is a game. A game played for enjoyment and opportunities.
Let’s not take it too seriously.
Letting kids be kids in soccer means allowing them to make mistakes, encouraging them to try new things, and fostering a love for the game that will last a lifetime.
It also means prioritizing their well-being and ensuring that they are not overworked or pushed too hard too soon.
By following some of the tips and suggestions outlined in this article, parents and coaches can help create a positive and enjoyable soccer experience for kids of all ages and skill levels.
Remember, the ultimate goal of youth soccer should be to develop well-rounded, confident, and happy young athletes who are excited to continue playing the game for years to come!