Shifting the Parenting Culture of Youth Soccer

Shifting the Parenting Culture in Youth Soccer

Posted by: Aaron Nagel | Executive Director


From the classroom to the sports field, youth sports have shown to be an important part of adolescent growth. According to a sports and health poll compiled by NPR, 76 percent of adults who have children in high school or middle school today say they encourage their children to play sports. With a large majority of families pushing for athletic participation, why is it so unsurprising to see conflict in youth sports? Kids of all ages participate in sports to learn key life skills such as positivity, dealing with pressure, and playing by the rules. Why then do we see so many examples from parents of what not to do in youth sports and how can we create a better environment for our young athletes, coaches, and community.

Mike Terson spoke in a December Tedx video about his experience of why adults get so wrapped up in the outcomes of youth sports. In his talk, he views the average coach and parent’s behavior and gives an alternative view of how we can improve the culture surrounding youth athletics. This is crucial because parents and volunteers play a very important role in the development of today’s youth. For our young players to be able to learn the lessons of hard work and discipline from their sport and utilize these lessons in their life they need to be in a nurturing environment that allows focus to be on development, not an adult’s behavior.

Sucking the Fun Out of Youth Sports - Mike Terson

The internet is full of videos showing parents, players, and coaches misbehaving on the sideline. As sports fans, we are very critical of performances by players, teams, and organizations. There are entire hours of television breaking down the decisions to bring on one more player to a franchise. Everything is under a constant microscope of coverage and analysis. As Mike Terson puts it in his speech, “We are critical of athletes and claim to pay for the right to be able to be terrible to them.” This is a dangerous attitude towards sports and their participants. Every professional athlete is someone’s daughter or son. Why is it different once they become a professional? Even if they are a professional, why is it okay to heckle and hurl insults at people who are just trying to do their best? The response is often that this person should know that it is all “part of the job.” Let’s dig a little bit deeper into elite athletics and then revisit our topic of shifting the culture of youth sports.

College Scholarships by the Numbers

As you can see, the probability of playing at an elite level is low and receiving financial incentives for playing at these levels has an even lower possibility. If the probability of professional play is so low why do parents continue to have their kids participate in youth sports? The overwhelming reason is that youth sports offer an environment that is important to your son or daughter’s development as a person. The lessons learned on the practice field and on game day have lasting effects on how your child deals with pressure, works with others, and manages responsibility. For these goals to be accomplished everyone must understand that youth sports need to be a fun and respectful environment for everyone. Whether you are a parent, coach, official, or young player the atmosphere for youth sports needs to shift.

At this point, one has to wonder how they can be a part of this positive adjustment to youth sports culture. Here are a few tips:

Respect is paramount

The golden rule from the youngest of ages is treat others how you would like to be treated. That doesn’t just mean your coaches, players, and parents; that means everyone. Whether you think the referee is being fair or the opposition isn’t playing a style you enjoy, it is about the players, not you.

Winning isn’t everything

In the words of John C. Maxwell, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.” Youth sports are are meant to be a developmental training ground where it is okay to fail. Sports can create unique situations ripe with teaching moments. Take advantage of this by knowing when to take a hands-on approach and when to let the coach utilize a teaching moment. Lessons can be learned whether the game ends as a win, lose, or draw. The messages our young players take from these experiences are what’s important.

Youth sports are supposed to be fun (for everyone)

Whether you are a coach, parent, or player everyone is there to enjoy the game. Sports can be frustrating but that shouldn’t stop you from having fun and setting a positive example for your child, players, or community. Succeeding can be a part of the learning process but adversity is what most teams and their players require for growth.

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