At Todd & Moore, we’ve talked to thousands of youth soccer players and their parents over the years. We’ve played the game, coached the game and parented the players. Here are our top youth soccer tips for helping young players have great experiences, whether they play for one season or a lifetime.
Make sure you have the right equipment: Your youth soccer player likely will be excited about shopping for gear. After all, what kid doesn’t like shiny new stuff! First-time soccer parents, though, sometimes aren’t sure what their kids need or how it’s supposed to fit. That’s where the youth soccer experts at Todd & Moore can help. When you leave our store, your youth soccer player will have the right gear and the great fit he or she needs to get off to a fabulous start. You’ll also get a great bargain if you purchase one of our special youth soccer packages that include everything a young player needs.
Hands off: This goes beyond the “hand ball rule.” Once you’re at practice or a game, let the coach be in charge. This lets a young child begin building trust in someone other than a parent. Many coaches will ask parents to help at practices, and if that’s the case with your team, please join in! Make sure your child knows, though, that the coach still is the authority figure.
Don’t give up too soon: Some children like the idea of playing soccer. This is particularly true if they have older siblings and have been looking forward to joining in the fun instead of watching from afar. At times, though, the over-stimulation of a new situation and new people will send a kid clamoring back to that seat on the sidelines. Gently encourage them to return to the field. Keep encouraging them for weeks if necessary, continuing to go to practices and games. Oftentimes, the player who was reluctant at the first practice will be in beast mode by the end of the season. They just have to get comfortable.
Establish a routine: Begin with a gear bag. At this age, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. A simple backpack or duffel will do. Gather all the essentials – water bottle, shin guards, socks, cleats, ball – and have your player help you pack them in the bag. Make sure your player puts everything back in the bag after each game or practice. He or she will need some help at first but will catch on far more quickly than you think. You’ll be happy you did this when you’re calmly leaving for practice or a game instead of engaging in a stressful round of “where are my shin guards?” Bonus points: Organization is a life skill, and teaching a child how to follow a system will pay off in years to come.
The game’s over when it’s over: No matter the age of the player, it’s tempting to rehash the game or to offer a critique. Don’t do it. For many kids, that ride home after the game is the worst part of youth sports. They’re either coming off a heady win and don’t want to be brought down by criticism real or perceived, or they’re already down after a loss and don’t want to talk about it. With older, more experienced players, there’s a chance that you’re not telling them anything they don’t already know anyway. Sometimes, the player will initiate discussions about the game. In those cases, go ahead and talk about it. In most other situations, it’s best to leave it at the field.
Most of all, have fun! Many kids starting out don’t care about much other than having the chance to run around with friends and getting a treat at the end of the game. Some players will be more intense from the start but, remember, they’re still kids and it’s still just a game.