How to Make Your Youth Soccer Season Great
One of the fun things about youth soccer is that a little extra effort by parents and coaches is usually rewarded with a great soccer season. It doesn’t take much, but taking some extra time during the week to help run practices, assist coaches, contribute to team spirit, or work with your child can make a huge difference.
While time and effort are very beneficial, having the right frame of mind can also impact your child’s season. A team culture led by parents that emphasizes fun and participation can help children have a better experience in games and practices, and make your season a special experience for everyone involved.
It’s Okay to Lose
A solid youth soccer season should be about three things:
- Having fun
- Developing skill
- Learning to use those skills in game conditions
Unless your child is older, or has been playing for several years, wins and losses should be secondary. Sure, the game is more fun for everyone when you’re winning. But if your child is improving during the season and having fun, the wins will come eventually.
By acknowledging that winning is secondary, parents reinforce to their children that the game should be fun. Goals that are attainable for everyone– having fun, letting everyone participate, and learning the game – become the focus. Parents and coaches should decide in the beginning of the season to make having fun and working to improve the top priorities of the team.
Let Everyone Play
Many youth leagues mandate that each child play at least two quarters every game, but that doesn’t mean this should be the only standard. Consistently playing certain kids for only half of a game, while playing others for a full game, can create resentment among parents and children. Unequal playing time also helps certain kids develop more quickly than others.
Elite players on a team rarely want to come out of games. Be sure they understand why they’re being taken out by explaining equal playing time. Team leaders should be rewarded for cheering on their teammates from the sideline.
Coaches have a lot to manage during games and (especially with older kids) want to field the most competitive team. But equal playing time should be a high priority. Everyone pays the same amount in league dues, and should benefit from the same opportunity to work on skill development during games.
Solicit Parent Contributions
Parents have countless opportunities to help make their child’s soccer season a memorable one, and every little bit helps when they work together. By investing just a little time during the week, parents can contribute in many ways, including:
- Assisting with practices
- Creating banners and team spirit messages
- Purchasing snacks and refreshments for games
- Working with their children alone or in small groups
It’s important to support youth coaches, who are doing the players on the team a huge service — especially considering they’re almost always not being paid. Show appreciation for coaches by doing more than dropping off and picking up your child. Be a presence, cheer on your team, and contribute to the supportive parent culture. Putting in a little time almost always has a tangible positive effect.
Have Team Managers
A parent or two who can assume administrative tasks will really help coaches concentrate on coaching. Team managers can assign snack duties, help with travel arrangements, make sure fees have been paid, and keep track of volunteers/assistants. They can also help coordinate parent activity by delegating tasks, which will reinforce the team spirit that helps make a soccer season great.
Use Social Media
Youth team coaches can also use a social networking site (like iSport!) to keep parents posted on upcoming schedules, team goals and overall progress. Social media sites also let parents and support members talk about team issues and build camaraderie – using a resource most people use anyway.
When coaches take a moment early in the season to set goals with parents and evaluate their child, it helps everyone involved. Ensuring both coaches and parents are on the same page makes it easier to relax and have fun in practices and during games.
It only takes a few moments to set up a team page, complete with schedules, calendars, weather updates and team needs. This is where you can give game recaps, post standings and organize team outings. Coaches can also post drills and challenges that parents can use with their children in the backyard. Above all, it’s a great tool for building team spirit and motivating both players and parents.
Create Fundraising Drives
Youth soccer is usually under-funded, leaving leagues and teams to rely on the generosity of others to cover the fees and dues associated with a season. Fundraising efforts can compensate for budget shortfalls, and help kids learn about teamwork.
Good fundraising efforts can yield tangible results like uniforms, equipment, and pizza parties that really drive the point home. A few good fundraising ideas include:
- Car washes
- Candy sales
- Team photos
- Video yearbooks
Fundraising efforts that are attached to a charitable cause – such as the health needs of a teammate or support group member – send a valuable message to the players and reinforce team morale.
Parental Participation is Key
Above all else, parents and family members should be encouraged to come to every game and cheer on the team. Constant attendance makes it a social experience for parents, rooting together for common goals. The camaraderie and fun that can only be experienced at games is the backbone of a great youth soccer season. Be sure to actively watch, take pictures, cheer, laugh, encourage your children, and build memories that you can share forever.