Winning is Great, But Youth Soccer Must be Fun
Competitive sports are a very strange phenomenon in the modern world. We love sports, especially soccer. Here is a game where people of all ages can take the field, kick a ball around, and enjoy themselves. But too often in sports, a massive emphasis is placed on winning, and soccer players and coaches lose site of the overall goal, which is to simply have fun. Make sure that your soccer team enjoys playing the sport, regardless of the score, because in youth soccer that is by far the most important thing.
Refrain from berating children who have made mistakes in the game. Yes, it can be painful to watch a three goal lead slip away, but don’t single out a player for blame. Chances are they already feel miserable about what happened and pouring salt into the open wound will just ruin their day. Instead, give the young player a pat on the back and tell them to keep their head up. Soccer is about confidence, and in young players who are just beginning to play the game such confidence is often remarkably frail, so help them move on from their mistakes, laugh it off, and keep enjoying the game. These things happen.
I think a big problem with coaches and parents is that they live vicariously through their children on the soccer field. When little Johnny Jr. scores a goal, grown-up Johnny enjoys it even more, and when Jr. loses the ball and the other team scores, guess what. Johnny suffers in the pain as well. Sometimes parents let their kids know those feelings and hurt the kid’s pride after the game, but that is entirely the wrong thing to do. As a child, don’t you want pleasant memories of your soccer playing days? If you constantly berate your kids, they will only remember the pains of mistakes and will start to resent not only soccer, but also you.
So keep it fun! Focus on the good plays that your soccer players make, even if they are few and far between. Not only does praise make people feel better inside, but it also helps boost esteem, and this will often lead to improvements on the field and a greater love for the game. When players develop and age they can view their own game from a more levelheaded vantage point. In older years, it can be more beneficial to point out errors, but when it comes to the children you need to make youth soccer as enjoyable as possible.