Coaching Youth Soccer
Koach Karl Dewazien
United States Soccer Federation 'A' Licensed Coach
Youth Soccer Coaching
By Dr. Keith Wilson
"Tunnel Vision: The Ultimate Problem"
Everyone involved in youth soccer knows the terrible stories of parents out of control. When parents verbally or physically attack others they have many targets to choose from. They can go after: 1) The ref who (in their opinion) has made a bad call, 2) the other team's players who they think are playing dirty, 3) even their own coach who is not playing their child enough. Parents have created a bad name for themselves.
Many people believe parents are the major problem in youth soccer. The leagues have followed suit by believing that parents and their mouths are the problem. Consequently, leagues have taken negative steps to contain the problem. The two most popular responses are: 1) Silent Saturday and 2) Lollipop Day. Both of these interventions work the same way. If you keep parents quiet, then they cannot be a problem. This strategy works in the short term but does not fix the parent problem. In fact, I believe these interventions will make the situation worse because it creates resentment among parents. Parents will often report feeling like they are being treated like children. (Most parents do not like this role reversal.)
Leagues need to invest in their parents
Parents are not the problem. I believe they are the solution. As league administrators, we have to help parents understand the positive force they can be on the sidelines. We have to raise the level of expectation and parents will follow. Parents put their children in youth sports for the positive experiences their children will benefit from. Parents do not expect youth sports will be a negative experience for their children or themselves. I believe parents are willing to work at providing a great experience for their children.
Training is important for parents
However, parents have to be empowered. Parents need to be trained in a way they can reach their full potential as the positive force on the sidelines. Leagues can follow the example of the mandatory training done in El Paso, Texas. Each parent is required to attend a 3 hour training session where they receive information about the problems of parenting and acquiring skills to help them perform at the level they are capable of as parents.
The foundation of the training in El Paso is to help parents obtain performance skills similar to the ones their children should be receiving from their coach.
As an example, if you tell a child to relax before taking a PK but do not provide instruction and practice about relaxation under pressure, then the player is not likely to be able to perform that skill well.
If we ask parents to relax and enjoy the game but do not help to provide skills to do so, then we cannot expect them to perform this type of response. Parents face particular challenges when on the sidelines. They are likely to get caught in Tunnel Vision.
Tunnel Vision is the state where the parents lose his or her ability to see the whole picture of the soccer match they are watching. Instead of thinking about different alternatives for handling a situation based upon experience and good judgment, the parent starts to think there is only one way to respond to the intensity of the moment. Tunnel Vision often causes parents to take a difficult situation personally and believe they have to respond forcefully to defend their honor or the honor of their team or family. The person loses the ability to think clearly and often will take action that he or she would not normally dream of doing.
When parents are taught performance skills to help them contain their anxiety, they are more likely to do positive things for their team on the sidelines.
Parents have the most power of all entities to create a positive sideline environment for their children. When parents develop a common belief about their power as parents they will work hard to help other parents stay within the reasonable guidelines of appropriate behavior. Parents are motivated by the fact they will feel better about themselves as parents and their children will perform better on the field. It is a win-win situation.
1) The parents have the skills to stay in "the zone" (Parent Performance Platform)
2) The player benefits from a positive sideline environment
3) The coach is not distracted by rowdy or out of control parents
4) The referee can concentrate on calling a good game
5) The opponents feel like they have had a great game because the competition was at the heighest possible level without outside distractions.
All of these positive results are dependent upon leagues having the courage to develop a positive performance based training program. When leagues take the easy way out and focus on negative interventions, they will create resentment and undermining behavior in parents. However, bold, positive, and performance based interventions will develop a positive parental contagion.
Parents are the Solution
Leagues have the choice. They can make parents the enemy or they can engage the parents in training and higher expectations. When leagues choose to invest, train and encourage their parents then, parent performance will improve. Youth Soccer will benefit when parents are a positive force. Parents are indeed the solution to the problem of negative sidelines.
Dr. Wilson is a psychotherapist, performance consultant, soccer coach and soccer parent in El Paso, Texas. He helped design the El Paso model and is the keynote speaker on Performance Parenting. He can be reached at PerformanceTalk@aol.com.
Copyright© FUN Soccer Enterprises 1998 - 2006