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Fundamental Soccer Blog

Coach With Rose-Colored Glasses

Coach:  My youngest son just started his first season of soccer.

Karl: Congratulations to both of you and may this venture (together) be a wonderful life long experience.

Coach:  He watched his older brother play all last season 

Karl: Having read ahead and knowing that your son is 4 years old – I have my doubts that he ‘actually’ watched his brother play. He may have attended the games (with you). He may have sat on the sidelines (with you). He may have looked at his brother occasionally (you may have focused solely on his brother). But, four year olds do not have the concentration ability to focus on one player (even if it is their brother) for any length of time. Most adults are able to focus for around 30 seconds can you imagine what is going on in a four year olds mind?

Coach:  And he plays soccer with me all the time.

Karl: Does he ask to play soccer with you? –or-  Do you initiate the playing? There is a huge difference between the two approaches.

If indeed your boy is asking you to play then you have a potential soccer lover on your hands. And ‘thank you’ for taking the time to play with him.

If, however, you are initiating the ‘lets’ play soccer then curb your enthusiasm. For your son may feel that he must play because Dad says so…!

Coach: He has great skills and we work on fundamentals. 

Karl: Paul take-off those rose colored glasses – there are NO four year olds who have any skills -let alone ‘great skills.’ It takes years of dedicated practice to acquire ‘great skills.’

Your use of the term ‘work’ on fundamentals gives me cause to be leery. Children should not be ‘working’ at anything. Children should be allowed to learn through self-expression and experimentation. A child should learn ‘to love to play soccer’ through his own initiative and with his friends (if possible). If your son does not learn to love to play this wonderful game there is nothing you or anyone else can do to ingrain this in him. It is up to your son to make the decision as to what he likes and doesn’t like! You will find out if he likes soccer when he becomes a teenager.

Coach: He is 4 and most of the kids on his team are 5..

Karl:  Children do not inquire what the age of their friends are – that is an adult phenomenon. However, if you make this an issue, then your son will be glad to oblige and use it as a potential excuse for not playing well!

Coach: He is timid by nature

Karl: If you say he is ‘timid’ then he will be timid. A child of this age can only reflect what the adults around him perceive. Your son does not have the years of experience needed to become aggressive, shy, timid, etc… All these characteristics are established over a long period of time and are ingrained by those adults closest to them!

Coach: -I don’t want to push him into anything. 

Karl:  I am extremely ‘happy’ to read this statement. This mantra has been espoused by countless numbers of parents before you. They were able to say the words but unable to act upon them. One of the most difficult things to do as a parent is watch ones child ‘fail their way to success.’ In our eagerness to assure that our child does not fail we attempt to eliminate the necessary steps a child needs to take in order to learn.

Ask yourself, How many times did your boy fall down when first learning ‘how to’ walk? What did you do to eventually get him to walk? Yes, you allowed him to try and try and try again and he eventually figured out ‘how not’ to hit the ground. Take the same approach with soccer.

You must, also realize, that, ‘you cannot push him into anything’ if he does not want to do it. He may play soccer (for you) in the next six to eight years. But, if he does not ‘love to play the game’ then he will quit once he begins to make his own decisions.

Coach: I’m taking the game step by step. 

Karl: Note your statement. ‘I’m taking…’ where does your son fit into the equation. Begin by changing this statement to read ‘We are taking…’

Coach:  He has liked the game since I can remember and loves playing against me.

Karl: Maybe, he likes to be around Dad and likes to do the things Dad likes to do? You are one lucky father if that is the case…! Continue having a wonderful time with your son playing with him – rather than ‘against’ him!

Coach: I’ve been on the field w/ him, directing him where to go and he actually went after the ball a couple of times.

Karl: You were on the field with him – when does he get a chance to learn on his own? Remember the walking example – what did you do to finally get him to walk?

‘Directing him where to go’ and earlier you mentioned that you did not ‘want to push’ your son. Does he play computer games? How often do you ‘direct him’ when he is in the middle of a computer game? What happens when you ‘direct him’ in the middle of the computer game?

 Maybe, he went after the ball ‘only a couple of times’ because he was too busy trying to figure out what you were telling him? Maybe, he would have learned to go after the ball by watching the 5 year olds? Maybe, he learn how to play the computer game without Dad ‘directing’ him? Maybe, he learned how to play the computer game by watching older players play the game? Maybe, he learned to walk after falling down one too many times?

Coach: He doesn’t like to go into the “mix” to get the ball

Karl: What normal adult would want to go ‘into the mix?’ Our game is about getting away from the opponent not getting into confrontation with him/her. It takes many years for players to ‘spread out’ and yet you seem to want your boy to ‘get in there?’.

Maybe your boy, after all, is a child soccer prodigy and has learned at the ripe age of four – to stay away from the mix and be open for that crucial through pass. Maybe, you were correct when you stated that your son has ‘great skills’ because he indeed may be ‘reading the game’ and staying in proper attacking and defending positions…!

Coach: He spends most of his time looking at me. 

Karl:  : What a lucky father you are. Your son is in an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by strangers many of whom are much bigger than he is and they are playing a game he has only played with his father. He looks for a safe haven and your presence gives him just that…you are a lucky father!

However, you must ask yourself ‘why is he looking at me most of the time?’ Remember what you established earlier when you stated ‘being on the field and directing,’ that is the way your son ‘thinks’ the game is played. That is the way your son has been ‘taught’ how the game is played. That is why your son is looking at you because he wants to play soccer and he was taught that the game is played with Dad ‘directing’ the play …!

Coach: Thanks for any tips.

Karl: My best ‘tips’ are…

  • Allow your son to be four years old…!
  • Allow your son to be exposed to soccer through his own experiences…!
  • Allow your son to play with other children no matter the age…!
  • Allow your son to learn the game through his own trials and tribulations…!
  • Allow your son to 1st be your son and 2nd to become a soccer player…that is if he ever wants to be a soccer player!


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