Most players and families get frustrated with soccer because they haven’t found several “secrets” to success for great games. Unfortunately parents, who think they are helping their player find success, are often hurting their kids opportunity to truly learn. At the same time, kids need to find their own path through the competitive wilderness and know how to focus on the little things that can make a big difference.

1) Let their voices be heard.

Good coaches and great players know the difference between practice and games. Coaches should be heard during the practices loud and clear –during games, it’s the players that should be doing most of the talking. Parents should help the players talk themselves, and often need to listen more and encourage great efforts than try to influence the game or the referee.
Make sure that all your parents should be on one sideline opposite the players and coaches. Parents cannot and should not be behind the goals or in the corners of the field. Please do not distract players during games or try and “get your kid” to play better. It often distracts them from listening and staying engaged if they have to look over to the sidelines and hear you or try to understand what you’re saying. Let them have the game, they will do amazing things once they find their voice within the game.

2) Car rides to and from games.

Nationally and in many studies, the most dreaded part of travel soccer is the car ride to and from games. Most players struggle with wanting to please Mom and/or Dad so much that they add more pressure to themselves before and during the game that they can’t focus on the positives of the experience.  It’s our job as adults to understand that adding pressure to athletes to get them to perform is like adding oil to water. It doesn’t help the learning process. Ask them if they are excited to play a game, let them experience the butterflies of anticipation, but try not to “coach” them or demand anything from them. Let them know you’re cheering for them win or lose.

3) Set Reasonable Expectations

Most players experience frustrations with the game because they don’t set realistic expectations. If you asked most players what they want from the game– they want to either win or score a goal. If that’s how they orient toward success, skill development and learning will take a back seat to unrealistic goals. A player can’t score every time they touch the ball. They also can’t win every time they step on the field. BUT they can do the little things that make a big difference and focus on skills.

4)Pick Three Things to Develop

Every good coach will take 2-3 topics and try to implement those ideas into practice and games each week. Focusing on the same topic for a week or two helps players learn how and where to implement their skills or see how a topic applies through different variations. Asking players to setup three skills that their coach wants them to focus on before games can help players develop confidence in a host of other topics. I like telling my players. “ Do what we do well.”

5) Set aside time to focus.

Getting players to the practice field rushed and panicked to get into the huddle is a recipe for disaster. Set aside time for the player to practice their moves, turn on music, and put their game face on. Getting into the zone starts on the car ride or bus ride to the game. Most players never take advantage of time alone to focus on what they want to do. The best players have their own routines to get themselves going right from the start. I encourage my teams to “get their game face on!” and sometimes they need to go get the Superman outfit out of the closet and focus!

6)Love em and feed em!

I’ve coached so many soccer games through out my life now that the celebrations and the defeats are both valued experiences. But from day one, as a parent, I want my kids to know that I truly enjoyed the experience of being able to watch them play. Even through defeat or victory, if you truly love the experience of sitting outside and watching your kids give the game their best then give them a hug after the game and remind they of how much you enjoyed watching them. It means so much to them that you love them no matter the results. Then ask them if they’re hungry  and need a smoothie!

7) Relax.

There’s only one game every fall that matters. And it’s the last one of the season. In high school it’s the sections and state tournaments, in club it’s the last game of the season. But winning the last game starts with preparation, endures struggles, and requires players to know the right time to turn it on. With love, guidance and passion they all find it sooner or later, because no competitive player wants to see their name in the loss column. But focusing on your breath, and taking time to mentally refresh during the game is critical. Know how and when to find your mojo and get it back.
I’m sure if you follow these seven steps to create success this weekend you’ll enjoy both the game and the experience.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy the opportunity to kick back and watch soccer!

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