We need to put parent engagement — education — at the top of the ‘to do list’ for ALL youth soccer clubs in the country. Would you do the same?
The Technical Director for US Youth Soccer Sam Snow was recently interviewed about “What is Working and What Needs to Change” in Youth Soccer Today for Goal Nation . I did not run for president of U.S. Soccer. However I turned 60 this year and having grown up in the United States watching, playing and coaching the game of soccer grow I felt I should express my viewpoint.
Parent education – I wholeheartedly agree this is at the top of the list. I remember hearing the question – What is the best youth team to coach? And the answer was a team of orphans. Not all that funny when you think about it.
Parents can be such a positive influence, yet we continue to see parents yelling at referees (over 60% of which are teenage referees). This negatively effects how long a referee continues to referee. The average length of time that a referee continues to referee is 1 year! One year! How can we expect these young referees to improve if they only stay one year? These are parents and they should know better than to be yelling at someone else’s child.
What else do we need to teach parents? Well chances are their child is not going to become the next Christian Pulisic and with almost 4 million children playing soccer. We have a little over 2,200 college teams playing soccer and if each has a roster of 30 players that means about 16,500 players in each graduating class might play college soccer and rarely is a full ride college scholarship given. Then we only have 70 professional teams in the United States (and not all players on these teams grew up in the United States). That means less than 2,000 professional soccer players and the average professional career is just 2 and a half years.
John O’Sullivan, who wrote #1 bestselling books Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids and Is it Wise to Specialize?, in a recent interview said that when people are asked what their worst memory is about youth sports, most respond that it is the ride home from the game. Kids are physically and emotionally exhausted, yet parents want to make the car ride home a “teachable moment.” It is actually one of the least teachable moments. He advises that parents let their child drive the conversation. If they want to talk about the game, let them talk, but do not be the one forcing the conversation. The ride home can begin to take the joy out of playing youth sports for many kids if handled poorly.
I know these parents mean well but the actions they are doing are part of the reason we see a huge drop in players once they reach age 14. The game is no longer fun. In my interactions with parents they don’t realize the negative impact they are having on their children.
To solve this we need to better educate the parents. Each team should have a pre-season team meeting. How parents interact with their children should also not be a “one and done” mentality. This should be one of the focal points for each and every youth team.
The solution is for clubs to embrace parent education and not avoid talking to the parents.
By Craig Winans – Emeritus 2nd Vice Chairman, California Youth Soccer Association & USSF Licensed Coach
 Goal Nation interview with Sam Snow – http://goalnation.com/sam-snow-on-american-youth-soccer-whats-right-whats-wrong/
2 Soccermetrics Research website – http://www.soccermetrics.net/paper-discussions/demographic-analysis-of-mls-players-boyden-carey
3 Positive Coaching Alliance website – http://devzone.positivecoach.org/resource/video/worst-part-youth-sports-kids-car-ride-home