Coaching 101: Sometimes Saying Nothing Is All It Takes

One of the biggest things I’ve learned from eight years of coaching soccer around the world is that the key to development is allowing players to organically learn the game. I think we’ve gotten into a situation over the years where too much over-coaching is going on. Our role as a coach is to guide. We can’t teach kids everything, but we can guide and create a fun learning environment for players. This will teach them to not only love the game now, but also to continue to love it in twenty years. The game alone is the greatest teacher.

coaching soccer 101

The hardest thing as a coach, and I know this from personal experience, is to not let your ego get in the way of development. Constantly barking at players to do certain things on the field doesn’t get the long term results you are after. Players don’t learn from being told what to do at every step while they are on the field. That would be the same as just controlling players in a video game. They learn from making mistakes. The team who usually makes the least tends to win. 

It’s ok to make mistakes.

As our friends at Online Soccer Academy say, when a player makes a mistake, “React positive!” They’ve just learned something!

If a player makes a mistake that leads to a goal you have to see that as a learning experience. They will learn and correct accordingly, understanding that a consequence resulted in that mistake. It’s how we learn many of our skills, not only in sports, but in life. Coaches can guide afterwards and re-correct, but that situation alone should never be over-coached in the moment.

Parents should recognize the silence of a coach isn’t always a bad thing. He/she is allowing the players to learn the game in an environment that is conducive to self-exploration and learning in a natural way by playing the game. Organized sports were never a big factor for learning the game in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Learning came from playing every minute of the day and watching the game on TV. Learning the game in an organic way is fantastic not only for the here and now but for the long term. It builds players who are creative and expressive while out on the field. 

If you make it fun now, they will love the game forever.

What Are Parents Getting Out Of Youth Sports?

ParentIt comes as no surprise that participating in youth sports offers a variety of lifelong benefits to children – but often overlooked are the benefits derived by the parents of young athletes.

The enjoyment of cheering on their children from the stands isn’t the only thing youth sports parents are gaining from their participation:

A Little “Me Time”

Although sports are often equated with a large time commitment, enrolling a child in youth sports can actually provide parents with a scheduled amount of free time throughout the week. Especially with the ever-growing popularity of carpools, practices can serve as a time to run errands or take some much-needed time alone.

Social Networking

Sports are a great way to make new friends, and not just for the athletes! Sports meetings, practices and games all offer parents an opportunity to meet others who share the mutual interest of engaging their children. Parents are able to socialize with an entirely new, kid-focused peer group and are able to bond over their long-term love of sport.

Peaceful Downtime

A child’s hyperactivity at home can cause a stressful home environment for the family. Participation in sports offers young athletes an outlet for their energy through the physical demands of training and games. In turn, parents benefit from the extra energy exertion when their tired athlete is ready to sleep soundly at bedtime.

Building A Stronger Parent-Child Bond

Not only are sports parents opening up to a new friend group, the relationship between the parent and child also benefits. Youth sports can create additional opportunities for general communication and advice, which results in a higher quality relationship between parent and child. Parents can also opt to encourage their child by volunteering, cheering them on from the stands, or even engaging in sports conversations over dinner.

A Happy Young Athlete

Parents will have the benefit of watching as their young athlete develops social skills, improves concentration, sleeps more soundly, boosts their self-esteem, and so much more. Sports participation can offer an array of positive affects on young participants, facilitating a more enjoyable season for all.

Youth sports offer so much more than the element of fun to all parties involved. Let us know what other interesting benefits you think are worth sharing in the comments section below!

The Dangers Of Coaching Your Child

It is possible to have a positive coaching experienceResearch has shown that parental involvement is a critical part of a child’s participation in sports. But is it possible to become too involved?

Parents who coach their own children make up 90% of all youth sport coaches. Motivation for this popular practice stems from a number of places: whether it be to spend more time with a child, to utilize a background in coaching, or simply to help the team. When handled correctly, coaching a child can be a wonderful experience.

A 2005 study by Weiss and Fretwell revealed that having a parent coach can be beneficial not only for the parent, but also for the child when involved in a supportive parent-coach/child-athlete relationship. The duo are able to spend more quality time together participating in an activity that both enjoy, therefore strengthening their bond. With a deeper understanding of their child, parents are able to make more informed coaching decisions based upon current moods and needs. In return, the child has the opportunity to receive individual technical instruction and added motivation.

However, many parents attempting to coach are learning the hard way that sometimes becoming too invested in their child’s team can lead to a negative experience for all involved parties.

The Danger Zone

When parents are unable to separate the role of mother/father from the role of coach, arguments on the field can lead to arguments at home. Being unable to move in and out of these roles will create strain not only in team relationships and family relationships – but the activity itself loses appeal.

The child may also begin to feel added pressure associated with their athletic performance. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when coaching your child is the perception of favoritism. In an attempt to treat each team member in a non-prejudicial manner, parents often overcompensate by becoming overly critical of their own children (Hughes). The child then feels as if they are on the receiving end of the coach’s anger when they don’t perform as expected. Studies show that not only does the child feel they are receiving more criticism, but teammates who witness the coach-athlete interactions also reinforce this belief.

The child-athlete may also begin to feel isolated from teammates. Young teammates may feel hesitant to share stories with the child in fear that they will repeat those conversations to the coach.

Proceed With Caution

To ensure that your coaching experience as a parent is as enjoyable as possible for both you and your child, be prepared to separate the role of coach from the role of parent.

  • Approach the situation without favoritism and be confident enough to be partial without being overly tough.
  • Have realistic expectations about your child’s abilities and discuss how your athlete feels about the coaching techniques being used.
  • Pay attention to the dynamics of your relationship with your child off of the field.

And most importantly, view this as an opportunity to have fun with your loved one.

What have you found with your own personal experience? Let us know in the comments below!

Does Specialization Lead To Scholarships?

Years ago, it was the norm for young athletesspecialization1 to test their skills at different sports according to the season. Football and soccer were played in the fall, basketball during the winter, and baseball in the spring. But with the number of indoor facilities and year-round leagues on the rise, specialization of youth sports is becoming an increasingly popular practice.

Today, millions of parents are hoping to prepare their children for athletic scholarships. Specialization in one specific sport at an early age may seem like the fast track to athletic success.

Focusing solely on one sport develops skills and coordination that are necessary to succeed in that specific sport. The child spends more time practicing, conditioning, and playing. Professional athletes such as Tiger Woods (who began playing golf at age 3) act as examples of the success that can be had by starting young.

Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

By specializing too young, athletes are putting themselves at risk for a large list of negative consequences.

At the top of that list are the physical overuse issues and chronic injuries. The repetitive movements of a single sport can cause muscle imbalances and tightness, leading to decreased performance. Chronic injuries such as tennis elbow, stress fractures, and ACL injuries become increasingly common.

Beginning to specialize early also contributes to emotional and psychological factors. Young athletes often put immense pressure on themselves to succeed. Specializing puts all of that pressure into one specific activity and may cause devastation and psychological burnout when they fail. Young athletes may begin to feel a loss of control over their own lives, with serious repercussions including depression, chronic fatigue, and eating disorders (Balyi, Way & Higgs).

Does specializing increase the odds of college scholarships?

The Huffington Post found that college coaches actually prefer to recruit multi-sport athletes. Young athletes who start out playing multiple sports tend to be highly athletic and still haven’t peaked. Most players who specialized in their youth are already reaching their burnout phase.

A study performed in 2008 administered surveys to 71 NCAA Division I-AA and Division I program athletes. Of the participants, 24% did not start playing sports until they were between 9-12+ years old, proving that you don’t need to start at age 3 to be successful. The average number of sports played prior to high school was 4, with 83% of participants playing at least 3. Only 2.8% specialized.

The ideal approach is to specialize at an older age, which often results in higher performance levels than those who specialize while younger. Players are less likely to experience burn out; their movement patterns and decision-making skills are better because they are involved in a range of activities that challenge their cognitive and physical functions; And they still have the opportunity to specialize in college to develop one sport to the fullest.

“The more sports youth practice at young ages, the greater ease they feel when eventually selecting one sport that suits their mental makeup and body composition. If they choose to specialize, they will know the sport in which they will excel.” – Balyi, Way & Higgs

Becoming wrapped up in the goal of college athletic scholarships has distracted many of us from what is truly important in youth sports. Encourage children to try different activities, teach them teamwork, and watch them have fun.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below!

Travel Sports Hinder Summer Vacations

Travel youth sports teams are becoming increasingly popular despite the fact that they require a lot of time and dedication. With countless tournaments and games taking place throughout the summer, many families are finding themselves foregoing traditional vacations on behalf of their athletic kids.

But it’s not just the time that families are giving up – it’s the money. In a recent article on TODAY, Lisa Delpy Neirotti, an associate professor of sport management at George Washington University, estimated that families spend $10 billion on youth sports travel annually, and the figure has been rising every year.

The traveling costs of these teams are expensive – for many families, it’s vacation or sports travel – not both.

Recent research by American Express found that approximately 69 percent of Americans will go on vacations for at least one week this summer. For families already having to pay for sports-related travel, though, these vacation plans may be out of reach. Many families are substituting “sports vacations” for traditional summer getaways.Soccer Training

Don Schumacher, executive director of the National Association of Sports Commissions, said that the amount of young people who are participating in sports each year is declining; however, he believes that because of this, “the people who are participating are participating with a vengeance. They are playing a lot of games and entering a lot of tournaments.”

For this reason, travel sports teams are becoming increasingly popular since they’re much more serious than less competitive options.

Neirotti believes much of the interest in travel leagues stems from the fact that so many “kids are specializing in one sport at a young age.” Since these kids are playing the same sport year-round rather than seasonally, they are constantly seeking new competition, which requires traveling.

Considering the overwhelming popularity of youth sports leagues, vacations may be a thing of the past for families with kids participating in these traveling teams.

Have your vacation plans been altered by youth sports? Let us know in the comments below!