I played soccer for the first half of my life. I have coached it for the second. Both halves were fun…and challenging…However, I don’t know if either fully prepared me for the transition to becoming a soccer parent – another fun challenge, but one that takes practice, for sure!
Just like in playing the game, you can make being a soccer parent complicated, but it is better to keep it simple:
Follow your child’s lead. Early on this can mean understanding their level of intensity/ interest in the game. Most youngsters are more casual and just out there to socialize and learn a little teamwork, great! Some may be naturally more competitive. Listen to how they felt about practice or the game, support them in that and find ways to gently challenge them.
Play the game with them(even if you don’t know what you are doing)! Find a small grassy area, put down some makeshift goals and go for some 1v1 or 2v2. In addition to appreciating how hard your child is working on the field, you might be surprised how soon they are having to let you win.
Set up environments that allow them to practice their skills outside of practice. Spend 5 minutes trying to get one more juggle than their last record. Pass against the front step with picture posing technique. Set up a small square for them to get 100 touches and work on two new moves they’ve learned.
Don’t coach from the sideline. This can be a really difficult one. Definitely cheer, but don’t coach. At all. And never yell at the referee or the other team. Never.
I try to be a good soccer parent…and just as I encourage my boys to do when they play, I will continue to practice to be better every opportunity I get.
Jemma Merrick is a life-long soccer fan, long-time soccer player and coach, and current soccer mom. After high school, Jemma played both Division I and Division III collegiate soccer, at the University of Virginia and Macalester College, respectively.