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How To Be A Great Soccer Parent

If you have found your way to our website, and have gotten this far, then you are probably exactly the kind of parent we are trying to reach - concerned and ready to support your child's growth as a soccer player and as a person. What we intend to do is to give you the information to enable you to support your child in the best way possible, and to give you information that you can pass along to other parents to enable them to do the same. Please discuss these ideas with other parents, and please feel encouraged to rein in other parents who do not understand the goals of the league as well as you do.

The key problem is simple: parents often have different goals for their child's experience of the sport than their children do, and pressure their children to do things that they are not ready or able to do. A study published in the New York Times in June 1997 presented the results of a survey that says it all: Parents and players of competitive sports were given a checklist and told to circle the three most important reasons why each group wanted to play sports. The parents' three most common reasons for wanting their children to play sports were "being challenged", "learning to compete" and "winning". The players had different reasons - their most circled goals were "having fun", "learning new skills" and "making friends".

In an effort to help bring our goals closer to the goals of our children, we offer the following THREE LEGS of SUPPORT. Follow these guidelines and you will have a very stable relationship with your child as they grow into young adults enjoying the wonderful game of soccer.

SUPPORT the kids This means all kids. Make positive comments to players, not negative ones. Don't groan when someone misses the ball. After a loss or a mistake, don't malign the other players. They are children too. Make a rule for yourself - say one positive thing to an opponent each half! Applaud a great save by the opposing goalie, a wonderful pass or a beautiful defensive play.

Forget the constructive criticism. You know, things like "If you only worked on your left foot a little more" or "next time you should pay attention when the coach talks about heading!" Comments need to be unfailingly positive and supportive. Kids take even the mildest criticism as a sign that you don't support them. You job on the sidelines is to revel in their accomplishments and offer a shoulder, a hug or a kiss when everything doesn't go perfectly. If your child's team does not win the game, compliment the other team's play. In order to learn sportsmanship, players must learn to accept limitations; both theirs and those of their teammates. When players cheat, or engage in cheap physical play, it is usually because they feel pressure from above that really comes down to "I'm not good enough to do this by the rules, so I'd better do something extra."

And, please remember that the kids on the other team might be your next door neighbor. Please don't gloat over the mistake made by an opponent. For heaven's sake, no celebrating over a team shellacking. What if it was your child? How would they feel? How would you feel?

SUPPORT the Coach Here's a shock, your kid's coach isn't perfect. But don't make it harder by coaching from the sidelines. Never yell to a player to do something - that's the coach's job. Players HATE to hear instructions from more than one source. Never, never decide that you know best what your child should be doing and complain during the game. If you have an issue, take it up with the coach after the game out of earshot of your child. Here's the best advice ever from a very senior coach that works with some of our players, "Let them play!"

It is a shame that the smallest kids play on the smallest fields allowing them to hear everything that everyone says to them! How many times have we seen a child turn around to a parent and say, "but the coach told me..." It's a sure sign that you are interfering with your child's fun. Let the coach do the coaching. You do the cheering.

SUPPORT the Referee Okay, this is very simple. Refs make mistakes. But, they are the authority in the game of soccer. If you want your child to be a good sport, respect authority and have fun, NEVER CRITICIZE THE REFEREE. Let's be honest. Most of you don't really know the rules (Laws) of soccer. Most of you don't have a clue about the intricacies of the offsides rule. Do you know that your child can be knocked to the ground legally? A legal charge that knocks your son or daughter over is not a foul. Do you know that it is not a penalty for a larger player to out-physical a smaller player for the ball?

But, let's get back to the mistakes. To have games, we must have referees. We recruit new refs EVERY YEAR. And EVERY YEAR, we lose referees (we do, yes we do, in Melrose - we do) because a parent or coach has said something critical to a 12 year old child who makes what is seen as an unfair call in a game between even smaller children ! Does anyone think that a new ref is going to make the right call all the time? Of course not. But, does anyone really think that a ref is going to favor one side or the other? Please, these are games. Games as in fun and play. They are not life or death for anyone, especially the ref! Assume the ref will make the same amount of mistakes for both sides. If you can deal with that you will be able to relax and enjoy the game a lot more.

In any event, our league has a zero tolerance policy toward abuse of its referees. Any parent who verbally attacks a referee may be excused from the sidelines of his or her child's games for the remainder or the year. All of us get wrapped up in our children's games - it is one of the great thrills that makes sports so much fun. However, we are the adults, and we need to be the ones who keep things in perspective.


Again, the 3 tenets of support: SUPPORT the Players, the Coaches and the Refs!


This article was adapted from "Guidelines on how to be a great soccer parent" which appears on the Westchester NY website: http://www.manhattansc.org

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