When my kids were younger, I was that parent who always wanted their kid on the field and despite my inexperience with the game always had “advice” to pass along to my kids while they were playing. It was when I was asked by my daughter’s rec. coach to assistant coach that I really began to understand what it means to enjoy the game and support your child. Trying to instruct the kids on the sideline as a coach was infinitely more difficult when a parent was providing opposing instructions to my players.
This was reinforced to me when my son started to play select soccer. One of the first pieces of advice I received from his coach was to a) not joystick (control the child through verbal instructions like you would a video game) and b) enjoy the game with them. It was difficult to adhere to those words of wisdom, but the more we practiced the more we all enjoyed the experience. Don’t get me wrong, we all get emotionally invested in watching our kids compete, but I’ve learned it’s best to help them keep it on the field.
I pay good, hard earned money for club dues and team fees for my child to receive top level coaching. I am not the expert. Their coaches are. And in return I expect a few things in return for my child.
An appreciation for the game
A deeper understanding of the game
Improved skill level on the field
Playing time in relation to how he/she responds to all of the above
This leads me to my role in the relationship….be a parent. What does that mean? Love my child despite the result, support my child in their pursuit of a goal, encourage my child to give their best effort, and equip them for success with access to quality instruction. To that end, my responses need to sound like “well done”, “did you have fun?”, “what’s one thing you could work on this week to improve?”, “did you give your best to the team?”, “what did the coach say to you/the team after the game?” Processing the game with encouragement, support and reinforcement of the coaches’ instruction with an expectation to do their best is where I now see my role as a parent.
This leads me to the ride home. From time to time, we have a lengthy ride home depending on where we are playing. This time is crucial in my relationship with my child and their future in the sport. During this time I could choose to be an encouraging parent or just another critic. It’s because of this delicate balance that we give our children 5-10 minutes to process the game and then move on to “what’s for lunch?”, “have you finished your homework?” or “want to shoot some basketball when we get home?” Something other than the match gives them time to process the game and provides them a break from the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. Most of the times they are better athletes than we are fans. I’ve always heard that the great players have short memories and move on to the next play or practice.
On the ride home, if we have another player in the car we fill the time with silly word games or finding license plates of different counties or states to pass the time. We simply let them be 10, 11, 12…year old kids.
The point of the ride home is to give the player a break from the game. They are often their harshest critic and they receive plenty of coaching from the professionals we pay to do just that. We all want our kids to be the next Pelé (okay I’m showing my age), Messi or Ronaldo, but for now they need to be okay with being Houston, Xavier, Alex, Donald, <Insert Your Child’s Name Here>. If they love the sport, if they work hard and if they listen to their coaches the rest will fall in line as it should. Otherwise, we may rob them of the opportunity to love what they do for fear of pleasing mom or dad.
So, from one parent to another help them keep it on the field and use the ride home to have some fun!