Dr. Dina Gentile on the field coaching her team
The Parents' Role in Player Development
Dr. Dina Gentile explains the role of parents in helping youth soccer players develop.
Coaches have a tremendous responsibility to teach the skills and tactics of the game to players while trying to avoid focusing on the number of goals scored or number of victories in a season. In a sports-crazed country, it is extremely difficult to stick to a coaching philosophy that has as its central focus the development of player skills. The gap in many cases is the lack of parental involvement or lack of parent understanding of player development.
Winning is an emotion we want all of our children to experience. We should never apologize for trying to outplay an opponent. But we are doing our players/children an injustice if all we cheer for and desire out of a soccer season is winning.
Perhaps, we need to take a few steps back to truly explain to parents what their role is and should be at practice, at home in the backyard and on game day. Player development is a system of stressing skill acquisition so these techniques can be transferred and improved upon from season to season. Player development cannot just happen on the town soccer fields, it must happen at home as well.
Parent Pointers to Player Development:
- Watch practice and ask your child what the team is working on or what they need to work on. Then, help them in the backyard practice receiving off a wall or practice dribbling in the park. Ask your child what they want to work on at home and support them as they commit to improving.
- Be positive even when the team or your child is struggling. Everyone knows when they make a mistake. Continue to encourage the players to give their best effort.
- Avoid disagreeing with officials or coaches on the field. Children will mirror our behavior. Focus on being a positive team supporter.
Setting Our Children Up For Success:
- Talk to your child about what to expect at practice or a clinic. The more prepared they are, the better the outcome of the session.
- Try to wait to watch your child connect with others on the field and engage with the coach before you leave the field (if you must leave). Be sure to tell your child your plans so they are not upset or anxious when they cannot see you on the sidelines.
- Be sure the equipment they are using fits and feels comfortable. Clothes should not be tight fitting since they are moving around, and cleats need to fit even with those soccer socks on!
Success does not always equate to a win on the field, and winning does not always equate to performing at the highest or best levels as an individual or team. If we switch the focus of our soccer season to demonstrating success on the field we may get closer to truly embracing soccer development. Success for a team could mean executing playing more balls wide, or possessing the ball more effectively in the midfield, or defending corners better.
Coaches are teaching players to perform better in each practice and we use playing in games versus opponents as the opportunity to measure that success. Winning a game 10-0 may not have the same learning opportunities as losing a game by one goal.
Many parents will ask what their child needs to work on to get better or to play at the next level. My answer is always – everything! Each player in all levels of this game can improve on all aspects of the game. One thing that separates athletes from the others is a positive attitude and a positive parental support system on the sideline.
Let’s celebrate success on the fields. When a player takes on a player 1 v 1 and gets behind – let’s cheer. When a team makes 3 passes in a row, let’s cheer. Parents on the sidelines are extremely sport-savvy and understand there is more to the game than goals scored, so let’s demonstrate that to the players who so desire our recognition and approval.
When we celebrate the efforts of our youngest players, we are giving them such a positive connection to the sport that can lead to confidence and perhaps success on the field. Giving your all and trying to perform a new skill are major components to player development and athletic success.
Related Article: Learning Valuable Lessons in Soccer from Other Sports, Preparation for Youth Soccer Tryouts and Dr. Dina Gentile's Column
SoccerNation News is proud to welcome Dr. Dina Gentile as one of our most popular contributing writers. Dr. Gentile is a Professor of Sport Management at Endicott College. A volunteer youth coach herself, Dr. Gentile understands from both practical and theoretical experience what happens on the soccer field.
Gentile has also coached the Endicott College Soccer Team for 11 years. Gentile is the owner/director of Precision Soccer, LLC, which operates camps, clinics, and coach education training throughout the year. Gentile has been in the role of Pre K and K soccer coordinator and player development director in Beverly, MA. She is a former All-American and Academic All-American at Adelphi University. Gentile has been inducted into the Adelphi University and Endicott College Halls of Fame. She is the proud coach of her daughter’s 2nd Grade team in the Wilmington Youth Soccer Association and son’s Pre K Team in the Reading United Soccer Association. Gentile is also a Soccer Ambassador for Korrio. Check out her practice plan ideas at Korrio.