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I cannot tell you the amount of times I have been to a youth soccer game, either as a ref or coach, and had to deal with the blistering, withering criticism heaped by a parent on a player, usually under the age of 8. I’ve tried to intervene as a ref, even told parents to be silent, but honestly the retort “Don’t you tell me how to raise my kid” sort grinds on the nerves after a while. While I’ve never lost it completely, I put together these simple tips for parents to make the game more fun for everyone.

1.) Relentless Encouragement: Your child isn’t Pele, but Treat Them Like they are Anyway

The most important thing for a youth soccer player is encouragement. Whether it’s a kind word in the car on the way to or from the game, or simply cheering them on during the game, the encouragement helps the kids stick with the sport. Simple things like getting pizza after a game whether they have a good or bad game goes along way towards helping kids have the belief and commitment to improve their game. Soccer is a team effort, its rare that one person makes an error that ruins the whole result for everyone so go easy on your player.

2.) Your Child Isn’t Pele

Your child isn’t Pele, so if he misses a tackle, or bobbles a pass, lets in a goal, whatever, don’t scream at them from the stand. It doesn’t help, it only embarrasses them and yourself. The man in front of you with the clipboard, the coach, is the one who is supposed to do that.

3.) Just because you bought your Child the Most Expensive Cleats Doesn’t Mean it will make them Successful

Yes, I know, they make youth Adizeros and Mercurial Vapors, that doesn’t mean your child needs the same soccer shoes as Messi. If your playing competitively in high school,college, or an adult league that’s one thing. But under the age of 14 there is no need to spend more than $100 on soccer cleats that will be too big or beat up to use again at the end of the season.  If you want to, or can afford to, spend that kinda money on your kids soccer career, get them the best shin guards or goalie gloves with fingersaves. They’ll appreciate the fact they look cool, and you can be sure they are well protected.  Then, use the money that’s left over to get some new practice gear for the team, or take them all out to eat. Remember, they have to feel part of the team to want to keep playing.

4.) Don’t Yell at the Ref

The ref in your child’s game is most likely an unpaid volunteer, so please don’t read them the riot act, or curse at them until you are blue in the face. The only person who looks stupid in these encounters is you. The ref will not change his or her mind no matter how loud you yell, and it will not affect the score at the end of the game. Also, don’t come up to the ref after the game in the parking lot and start demanding he or she explain a decision, most likely, they wont remember it, and if they do, it was pretty serious so you don’t want to anger them further. If your child is sent off and there by suspended from play, you can challenge it with the league, and should feel free to so in that forum; not the car park.

5.) Don’t Drink at the Game

I know its fun to have a nice cold beer with your buddies on a nice day, but don’t do it at your kids soccer game. Drinking is the main reason youth ice hockey refs think the glass around the rink is more to protect them than the spectators. Alcohol and kids sports don’t mix, you wouldn’t go drink at a dance recital or school play, so don’t so it in the stands.

Written by: Matthew Wall, editor, soccerprose.com


About the author: Matthew Wall


I've played soccer since I could walk thanks to my father and love keeping up on all the latest gear and gab. I'm in my twenties, and I'm lucky enough to have found work in search marketing for a leading soccer retailer after completing my M.A. at Georgetown in 2008. My team is Liverpool, and national side is Ireland, but I've also got a passion for GAA and a number of sports. Feel free to give me a shout on Google+


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