We’re getting to the point where we should have some ideal conditions for youth soccer. The weather is improving and the kids are getting used to their teammates and roles. This is where they need the space to lead themselves a bit. As a coach, the hardest habit to break is being a remote control for my kids. We want them to make the right plays and see that they’ve learned, but too often call them out to them. Though we think we’re teaching them in that moment, we’re actually programming them to wait for us to tell them what to do. When it comes from both sidelines, it’s even more confusing for the kids.
Some leagues have “silent days” where the coaches and parents aren’t allowed to yell during the game, only applaud and speak among themselves on the sidelines. That type of thing may be something we try in the future, but I’m not asking for that now. When I tell the kids I coach that they need to talk to each other out there, I tell them that their job is talk to each other enough to make me and their parents shut up so we want to hear them on the field. Coaches should be able to talk with the kids on the sidelines about what’s going on in the game so they can react better when they get back on the field. And remember, most of the refs are young kids as well and are learning their roles, too. Kind halftime reminders are a lot more effective lessons than angry shouts in the moment.
So when you go to this week’s game, sit down, root for your kids, and enjoy seeing them grow. Talk with them about the game on the way home. Make sure they’re having fun, because that’s why we do this. If your blood pressure is higher after the game than before, perhaps you haven’t reminded yourself why you do this.