One of the beauties of soccer is that it is truly a “players” game, with coaching from the sidelines forbidden. Unfortunately at the youth level, this rule is never enforced. Unlike most of our sports though, soccer has very few stoppages, and this allows for players to make their own decisions during the flow of the game. Because of the environment that exists in soccer, it really is a wonderful avenue through which to develop children.
In a typical game, there is lots of running (fitness), change of direction and change of pace (agility and athleticism), decision making, risk taking, ball skill development, vision and spacial awareness, fakes and scheming, teamwork, and most importantly, fun! Kids can experience the ups and downs of sports in so many ways, and this is an excellent environment to learn how to deal with these challenges in a positive manner.
One of the best methods for developing good soccer players is to play “pick-up” soccer with friends. In this environment kids often play with children of varying ages, they play uninhibited because parents are usually not around to yell instructions and set demands, and they get to “own” the game on their terms.
Over the past weekend at a soccer tournament, I heard countless coaches directing their players non-stop. It was truly annoying. As I sat and quietly watched my team play on their own, I was complimented by many referees, field marshals, and opposing parents for my quiet demeanor. It didn’t hurt that our girls were able to relax and play some really beautiful soccer....on their terms. They were the champions of the weekend in every category!
All of us as parents would love for our children to grow up and be good decision makers. If we can have the patience and the fortitude to allow the process to work in youth sports, stop all of the screaming and yelling, our kids now have a better chance of learning these very important decision making skills.
Enjoy the games!
- Steve Locker