When my oldest daughter first started playing soccer, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t one of those parents you hear so much about. I didn’t want my daughter to feel pressured because I played soccer in college. Sure I wanted her to be active and physically fit, but if she enjoyed a sport, I wanted it to be on her own terms. I had a teammate when I grew up that had an overbearing father. I am sure my friend’s father meant well, but he was so hard on his son that despite his son being a High School All-American his sophomore year, he stopped playing by the time he reached his senior year. I didn’t want to be like that parent.
I have been a Cal North coaching instructor for over 20 years, and I always end each coaching course I teach with a quote I learned from Koach Karl – “The outcome of our children is infinitely more important than the outcome of any game they will ever play.” I felt this embodied what I was seeking, but I wanted something that helped define how to accomplish this noble thought. So I did research and found an article entitled “The Six Things a Parent Should Tell to Their Athlete.” It was written by Bruce Brownlee, a youth soccer coach from Atlanta. Three were to be said before each game, and three were to be said after each game.
Before the Match
I love you
After the Match
It was great to see you play
What would you like to eat?
I love you
I used these 23 words throughout all of my children’s childhood. It was easy to use. Easy to remember and . . . it worked. My children played various sports (including soccer), today my children are all adults, and I look back on them growing up, and I know they enjoyed their athletic careers (and that oldest daughter of mine? – well, she played soccer in college and is now a surgical nurse).
I passed this along to all the parents of the players I have coached, and I have had parent after parent tell me how much it helped them. For the most part, parents want to do the Right Thing. They don’t want to be that parent, but no one gives them any suggestions on how not to do that.
So how did I get my parents to use this philosophy? First, one of the things I pride myself as a coach is that I have never been sent off. Not as a player and not as a coach. A coach needs to lead by example. I find that when I sit in my chair during a match, it helps the parents of my players do the same thing. The famous college basketball coach John Wooden said that when it came to a game, he would have preferred to sit in the stands and just watch to see how well he taught his players during the week.
The game moves too fast for a soccer coach to be a joystick type of coach. What is a joystick coach? Well, they are the ones that think they can reposition the entire team so that their team is always in the right position.
So back to how I got parents to buy in. The second thing I would always have is a preseason meeting where I went over my coaching philosophy and what I expected of them as parents. Laying the ground rules is best done before the season starts. I would also hand out laminated cards. On one side would be the number and names of the players so that a parent wouldn’t have to shout out, “Good job, ahhhh, number nine” instead, they could instead cheer, “Good job Suzy!” I am not a marketing guru or anything, but I believe in the psychology of subliminal messages. On the reverse side of the laminated roster, card would be those six magical lines. Those 73 letters. So chances are when the parent took out the card, about 50% of the time, they would see the six things to say.
I think Koach Karl’s quote and the Six-Things to tell your athletes go hand in hand.
Good luck and have fun that way, and your children can truly learn how to love whatever game they are playing.