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A parent of a U8 girls soccer player sent a picture of all the statements coaches made to their players in a recent game.  Things like:

  • Have you played soccer before?
  • It’s your fault they scored!
  • You’re terrible!
  • Do you even know how to play soccer?

Unfortunately, those of you reading this know this all too well.  This is where I am going with this…

I have been in the game professionally now for 41 years as a college and professional player and coach/director/manager at the youth, HS, college, and pro levels.  I have taught 100’s of coaching courses for 4 different state associations.  The game, infrastructure, opportunity, access, etc., have improved greatly over this time!  

But dang it, no matter the tremendous efforts of all of us in the leadership and consultancy in the game over the last decades, the parent-coach/parent/pro-coach (?) behaviors in youth sports have NOT CHANGED – probably more than an iota – in 40+ years.  Arguably, some will say it is worse now.  For me, it’s so disheartening! 

Somehow, this type of adult behavior is/has become in-bred…because, nowadays, it is likely these folks DID play youth soccer/sports.  Back in the day, it largely was not the case…so there was a learning curve…OK.  But sheesh, now…that’s not an excuse. Maybe it’s because these folks were treated poorly by adults when they were playing as youths? So, they somehow feel that’s how to do it?

I feel that so many of us preach to deaf ears or preach to folks who already get it and don’t really need the message.  The folks who really need to hear the message seem to never be in the audience (literally and figuratively).  And I should note I am relatively certain this is not just a USA issue.  I think parent coaches/parents around the world are this way – but somehow or another, the kiddos manage it better??

I have no answer on how to get to these people – they certainly are not on the “Changing The Game Project,” — “Karl’s Komments,” or Project Play email lists.  They certainly don’t attend any of the thousands and thousands of seminars/courses we teach.  Absolutely no disrespect, but somehow, we can’t keep preaching to the choir.  How can we get the message out to those who don’t go to church? (Just a figurative phrase to go with the choir metaphor).

I like Tom Byers’ approach ‘Soccer Starts at Home’ to learning the game at home from a technical development standpoint…but again, how many of these folks who continuously engage in these aberrant types of behaviors would create the proper environment at the house?  We still don’t get to the root of the problem.

And then, of course, we get to the “we need coaches” phase.  And the probably “good moms and dads” won’t coach – soooo, we get the “bad ones” by default – and the cycle repeats over again as I write this right now. Maybe the key is how to best engage the “good ones,” if that’s possible.

I totally applaud all of our work, presently and in the past – and this diatribe is not meant at all to disrespect the work we have put into date.  I just think that the messaging is not getting to those who need to hear it/see it.

I also totally realize and take solace in the “one person/one coach at a time” because it is really all we have right now.  But is there another way to reach/educate/convert the bad actors? Is there a way to not involve the bad actors to begin with?

FUNdamental SOCCER Komments

The challenges and frustrations mentioned in Ric Granryd’s thoughtful article are all too familiar in youth soccer. The issues with parent coaches and disruptive behavior have persisted for decades despite the remarkable progress we’ve made in various aspects of the sport. It’s disheartening to witness such behavior, especially when we know that youth soccer can offer so much more.

This is where the ‘FUNdamental SOCCER Bill of Rights’ comes into play. It’s not just another document; it’s a player-centric proposal aimed at improving the future of youth soccer for everyone involved. By addressing the root causes of these issues and promoting a more positive and supportive environment, we aim to make a real difference.

We understand that reaching those who may need this message most is a significant challenge. Ric Granryd’s words resonate with many of us who have worked tirelessly in the soccer community. While we’ve made progress, ‘one person/one coach at a time,’the question remains: How can we reach, educate, and convert those who may not be in our audience?

The ‘FUNdamental SOCCER – Bill of Rights’ is an attempted step toward this goal. It not only outlines the rights and expectations of players but also serves as a call to action for everyone involved in youth soccer. It’s an invitation to actively engage and be part of a positive change. We believe that, together, we can create a more promising future for our players and ensure that youth soccer is an enduring passion for them.

As we work towards a better playing environment, we acknowledge the challenges, but we remain committed to making a difference. I invite everyone to join us in this endeavor, including those who may not yet be aware of the message. Let’s create a brighter future for our players by “Supporting the Cause” and making youth soccer a truly enjoyable experience for all.

Ric Granryd

A 41-year career in soccer and athletics at the youth, high school, collegiate, and professional levels. Most recently, he served as the Director of Soccer Operations with Union Omaha and the Co-Founder/General Manager of Roots Futbol, LLC. He is the author of two books, "Hey Coach, This Game Is Fun" (1996) and "You’ll Go Far" (2019). Currently, he is the Director of Operations for Capital City Soccer Club in Austin, TX.