COACHS CORNER: Never Too Old To Play

Play is important, no matter your age. Playing soccer as an adult is a great way to get or stay active! No experience necessary.

It doesn’t matter if you are a retired youth player turned parent coach…or a newbie to the beautiful game as a parent cheering from the sideline, there are many ways to find opportunities to play:
-suggest an end of season parents vs. kids game
-organize parent free play/pick-up in a local park (could be a practice or scrimmage)
-find an adult recreational team to join, or start one with some of the other parents
-many communities that run youth indoor tournaments in the winter also include adult coed brackets
-if running is out of the question for you, research “walking soccer” – it’s a real thing

However you decide to play, your kids will think its pretty cool – even if they’ll never admit it. Just remember to keep it fun and share the joy of the game!

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

COACHS CORNER: On Being “Coach” and “Mom”

For the past five years, I have had the opportunity and privilege of coaching both of my young boys on the soccer field. I started with each at the recreational level and continued as they moved through to the first few years of competitive. This has been a different experience compared to my previous 20 years coaching other people’s children in communities outside of my own.

The benefits are many. And while the challenges are few, they can be part of the balancing act when you are playing the role of coach and parent at the same time.

In my case, the main obstacles centered around:

  • Honoring that I never stopped being Mom in the eyes if my boys, even as I was trying to be coach to/focus on all the other kids on the field. Especially early on, there was no putting momming on hold.
  • Trying to not have my boys always be the sacrificial lamb (playing goalie when no one else wanted to or giving them shorter/less shifts when we had too many subs).
  • Turning the coach brain off (at least outwardly, to them) when we got to the car after a game or practice. Remembering to simply ask them if they had fun and let them know that it was fun to watch them play.

Some of the great joys include:

  • Building lasting relationships with the families.
  • Growing a love of the game right in my backyard.
  • Contributing to and investing in the development of the kids beyond their soccer skills.
  • Getting to continue to see the growth of the players I started working with when they were only 5 and 6 years old as they move into the tween years and beyond.
  • Always feeling like “coach,” even when I am no longer in charge of running the training sessions and sub rotations.

So even though I now get to sit on the other sidelines and (try to quietly) drink my tea and “just” cheer, I cherish the moments I get to see the kids I’ve coached off the field (and give them a high five) or when I still get to chat with parents about their child’s accomplishments and soccer progress.

Ultimately, it is incredibly rewarding to be part of two strong soccer families – our immediate core unit and the larger club community to which we belong.

I will always be “Mom” to my boys. I hope they, their teammates and the families know that I will also always feel like “Coach” and will continue to cheer them all on from life’s sideline for as long as they let me.

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

COACHS CORNER: Parent Coach Seeking a Good Therapist!

It doesn’t matter what age group I have coached, there inevitably comes a time when I need to seek a little “coaching therapy.” To me, this means consulting with my coaching peers and mentors to discuss the different triumphs and pitfalls I have encountered in a certain practice, at a game or throughout a season.

It doesn’t matter that it is “just a recreational league” – kids emotions…parental expectations…player development…practice plans…the general energy it requires to try and give everyone a positive experience can, at times, leave a coach needing a friend to lean on! So don’t go it alone. Find your people that are in the know who you can celebrate the little victories with and who can give you the perspective you need to re-energize you for your next round.

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

COACHS CORNER: Learn the Game Together

For the recreational coach and parent Learn the Game Together

I was recently in my friend’s backyard and the conversation turned to her 8-year old daughter’s blossoming love of soccer. Before I knew it, I was up and teaching her “The Maradona,” just for fun. My friend and her older daughter soon joined us. Later, I received a text informing me that the three of them had spent a significant portion of their evening continuing to try the move together and that her youngest couldn’t wait to show dad “The MADONNA” (her version of this famous turn).

Of course, the MOTI 3D skills are great for the players, but this got me thinking about how great of a tool it is to connect parents and their kids with each other and to the game. The players get extra practice, the parents gain an appreciation for how difficult some of the skills can be to perform and additionally, the child feels the benefit of one-on-one attention and investment in the relationship.

So, why not use the technology to learn the game together? Take turns giving each other scores for executing the skill or video record one another and compare your moves to the MOTI animation. Regardless of how you decide to “strike a pose” and make it your own, remember to: KEEP IT FUN!

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

COACHS CORNER: Scoring goals isn’t always the goal

Goal scoring is fun, of course. Fun to do, fun to watch. And even though
most clubs don’t keep score at the recreational level, the truth is that
the players often know exactly how many goals each team has when the final
whistle blows. However, many of these kids rarely get the opportunity to
feel the rush and glory of scoring an individual goal during their young
careers. It is important for coaches (and parents!) to make other aspects
of the game just as exciting as finding the back of the net:

  • Set up a system of tracking when players try and successfully execute
    certain skills you have introduced at practice. It is helpful to have a
    parent or assistant keep track and often the kids on the sideline will join
    in too (for example: today I am watching how many outside hook turns you
    can do).
  • Give each player something specific you want them to accomplish that
    matches their level of playing ability. This could be a concept you want
    them to grasp, like only playing the ball to the outside when they are in
    the middle of their defensive field or challenging them to make sure they
    are trying to pass with a purpose and find a teammates feet each time the
    kick the ball.

Celebrate these victories to the player directly with verbal praise and
high fives. When they are young, it is ok to make each player feel like
they were the game VIP and give them something concrete they can tell their
fans they accomplished when they are asked “How was your game?” It can also make players begin to understand early that there are many ways on the
field to make significant contributions to their team and that being a goal
scorer isn’t the only way to add value to the game. This all takes some
extra forethought, effort and time on the coach’s part but the benefits are
well worth it!

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

COACHS CORNER: Respect the Ref

Being a referee is not an easy job. Starting with recreation soccer and through much of the early youth stages, these refs are often also KIDS. They will absolutely make mistakes as they are out there learning to make difficult and definitive calls. No matter how much you want to be relaxed as a coach, it can be frustrating to keep quiet when a ref isn’t blowing their whistle or is blowing it too much, when the calls aren’t going your team’s way. But keep quiet you must. Model this good behavior for your players. When they want to complain, this is a teachable moment about playing through: focusing on the game, working hard and having fun.

In the end, remember how you would want a coach to treat your own child who might someday be brave enough to be on the field as a ref, doing their job in front of a live audience of ready-to-judge adults…

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

FROM THE SIDELINES: How to be a good soccer parent

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.

COACH’S CORNER: Nurture a love of the game!

As a recreation coach, you might just be a first introduction to the beautiful game of soccer for many kids and their parents. This is an opportunity to provide a positive initial experience for families that can nurture a love of the game and help grow lifelong players and fans (no pressure!). Here are some quick and easy tips to create some hype and help you on this mission:

  • Have a competition with the kids at practice and add extra incentive by telling them you will do something silly, like star jumps or singing Twinkle, Twinkle, if they “beat” you.
  • Give some fun homework: recommend that they try to get 200 touches on the ball before the next practice, spend two 5-minute sessions practicing passing with perfect posing form or work on increasing the number of juggles they can get by one.
  • Keep parents in the loop about the things you are asking the players to work on so they know what to emphasize with praise too (I love the way you tried that drag back, you really locked your ankle when you passed today, etc.).
  • Encourage players/families to watch a professional or college game – live or on TV – and give them ideas of things to look for during the run of play: count how many passes one team can string together before they lose possession or how many times they see a certain move, for example.

Bring lots of energy and keep it fun while they are learning and you will keep them coming back for more!