I’ve had conversations over the last few days with fantastic coaches and people getting so fed up with the behavior of youth soccer parents that they are ready to throw in the towel and walk away from coaching, especially at the younger age groups. Seeing and hearing some of the antics of some soccer parents, I often ask myself the question if having kids turns sane people crazy, or if it just accentuates already existing neurotic behavior in other areas of life. I say this genuinely, as I don’t have kids, and I can’t imagine the stress of every capacity of trying to bring life forward in the world and give it the best chance of success.
But that being said, I’ve seen it far too many times that parents, thinking that they are getting ahead, are actually destroying the experience for not only the kids, but also for the coaches who spend their time pouring into them. And more often are not, they are not bad people whatsoever, but the crazy takes over them and makes them do things that as a fairly sane (depending on who you talk to) childless person, forces me to just shake my head in wonder.
The following are for those parents to recognize themselves if they don’t think that they are that crazy soccer parent (because no one ever thinks they are).
10 Steps to Recognizing Yourself as a Crazy Soccer Parent:
- You’ve ripped your child off a team that they are happy on and developing well with, because the (perceived) path to college is somewhere else (do this especially when they are around age 10, don’t want to miss the boat, and especially if a coach from another club is calling to recruit them)
- You make sure that your kid knows that they are better than everyone else and talk down about and act superior to other kids on the team that you perceive as lessor. For extra good measure you make sure to organize events outside of the team that handpick only the kids you deem good enough because your kid only can be around the best to develop properly.
- You worry about any perceived advantage that other kids are getting in any situation and make sure to point it out to the coach.
- You treat your child as a bargaining chip and threaten to leave if your kid isn’t getting treated as something special.
- You critique the coach’s knowledge of the game, or their methods of developing players. Make sure to do this especially if you’ve never played past the high school level, and your coach has played pro and go extra crazy if they aren’t winning every single championship. Development is great, but what’s development if they aren’t getting a trophy or medal and giving you some shit to brag about at the water cooler? You’re paying money for this!
- You stand on the sideline and talk junk about other kids on the team. Extra bonus points if you yell negative things at other people’s kids.
- You have your kid play 6 days a week and put so much pressure on your kid by talking about the games all the time and make every situation feel like life or death. You think to yourself, what’s with all this crazy talk about giving the kid time to be a child and enjoy the game? They are 11 and have big scholarships to get! Every second counts!
- After every game, whether your child asks your opinion or not, you give them a detailed list of what they need to do better on the field and how they screwed up. Extra bonus points if you talk crap about their teammates and how some of them are just not good enough to be out there.
- You bounce around from team to team, always looking for something better.
- If anything ever goes wrong, you blame everyone else; the coach, the weather, how unfair the rules are, and make sure to take zero ownership over the situation. Extra bonus points if you encourage your kids to do the same.
The good news is, that curing yourself of being a crazy soccer parent is super easy. It’s about awareness of your behavior and making the choice to recognize the game for what it is, and making a point of having it be an enjoyable experience for coaches, your kids, and their teammates and other parents. At the end of the day, what’s the point of accomplishing anything if everyone is miserable?
Recognize yourself in the above and want to know what an ideal soccer parent looks like?
10 Steps to Curing Yourself of Being a Crazy Soccer Parent
- You let your child stay in environments that they are excited to be in, and where they are learning and making improvements.
- You encourage your kid to make the best of every situation and encourage them to learn and be a good teammate regardless of if they are the best player, the worst player, or middle of the pack and create a positive environment by being inclusive of everyone.
- You worry about your own kid, and trust that even though other kids may get an opportunity here or there, that with a positive attitude and a work ethic to train on their own, that your child will get to whatever level they are motivated to regardless of what is happening with anyone else’s kid.
- You focus on doing your part to make the experience of youth sports a positive one for your kid, their teammates, their coaches and other parents.
- You trust that a coach, especially one that has played at a high level, knows what they are doing on the field. You think of your job and how it would feel if someone with no experience came in and started offering suggestions on how to do it and you act with the respect towards your coach with the respect you would hope others would show you in your workplace.
- If you open your mouth to say anything about your child’s teammates, you go by the old adage: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Extra bonus points if you can find the positives and comment on those.
- You let your kid be a kid and not burn them out. You realize that instead of paying for every program under the sun that is offered, in the hope of getting an edge, that the real edge and joy and improvement comes from taking the ball out on their own, watching soccer, and organizing playing with their friends. It’s a lot less expensive as well.
- You don’t give any post-game critique to your kid unless they ask, and if you do, you formulate it in a positive way.
- You make the best of every situation that you are in, and use hard experiences as an opportunity for growth.
- You always take ownership and responsibility for your role in every situation and encourage your child to do the same.
Your child’s time on the field is short, do your best to make it a time for everyone, coaches, players and other parents, to enjoy.