I’ve been thinking a lot recently about maintaining perspective as a soccer parent as my city, Richmond, VA and home club, the Richmond Strikers, is hosting the 4 weekend Jefferson Cup Tournament. This weekend is the Girls Showcase, and my daughter, a sophomore in high school finds herself right in the middle of the college recruiting process. While in one sense I understand that the next 6 games she plays at the Jefferson Cup Showcase and the Phoenix ECNL National Event a couple of weeks from now will have a real impact on her future as a player, I also want to be sure I maintain my perspective and Level-Headed Soccer Parent mindset.
That’s hard to do.
It’s hard to maintain your perspective as a soccer parent when you are consistently met with marketing messages that are designed to encourage you to think about the soccer future of your child as U.S. Soccer and the ECNL are in the middle of what feels like a fierce battle for the playing time of our children.
U.S. Soccer is launching a Development Academy for girls this fall, after having one for the boys for the past 10 years. The launch of the Development Academy (DA) means that parents now must choose the playing environment of their elite player. Are you going to leave the ECNL, which has undoubtedly proven itself as the top league for girls, and move to the new Development Academy in the fall?
The marketing forces of both the DA and the ECNL are in high gear.
The U.S. Soccer DA has been marketing their league as the path to the National Team. In their December 23, 2016 press release they say that the purpose of the DA is to “develop world class players that have the potential to contribute to the Women’s National team.” April Heinrichs, U.S. Soccer’s Women’s Technical Director, in a panel at the NSCAA Convention in January stated:
If your child wants to be on the National Team, they need to be playing in the DA.”
The ECNL, in competition with the DA, has been marketing their league as a path to playing soccer in college. In their March 16 press release The ECNL: The Proven Path to College, the commissioner of the ECNL, Jen Winnagle states
The ECNL provides a development environment where players can showcase their talent in front of hundreds of college scouts in the most professional atmosphere in the country…. In modern soccer, no youth platform has sent more players to college, had more alums earn collegiate honors, and had more impact on the collegiate game.”
I appreciate the growth we have seen in the youth game these past 10 years since the boy’s DA and later the ECNL was initially launched. I love that my daughter can challenge herself, compete and learn in an environment that focuses on player development.
I don’t however, appreciate the feeling I have when it appears the powers at be are taking hostage of my child’s dream and telling her she needs to play in one place or the other for that dream to become a reality.
I am a Level-Headed Soccer Parent and I want to make my decisions about my child based on my Soccer Parenting Values, not based on my emotions. There are 6 Soccer Parenting Value Statements that must guide parents in their actions and decisions.
The Soccer Parenting Values are Active Health, Coach Integrity, Life Lessons, Soccer Knowledge, Love of the Game and Balanced Outlook. (Download the Complete Value Statements Here)
I want my decision about where my child will play to be based on the Soccer Parenting Value Statement of Coach Integrity: “We acknowledge the positive impact a coach can make on a child’s life, and we commit to holding coaches to a high standard of integrity, professionalism and compassion so our children feel optimistic about their potential, even in the face of defeat.”
I will make the decision about where my daughter plays based on the quality of the coach who will be working with her, not the level of soccer coaching license they have, or their record in developing world class players. Instead, I will choose her environment based on the coach’s ability to positively impact the life of my daughter, to uniquely connect with her and help her understand all she is capable of on the field – and in life.
I want my decision about where my child will play to be based on the Soccer Parenting Value Statement of Balanced Outlook: “We seek to use a clear perspective when making soccer choices for our children, ensuring the decisions are in the best interest of the child’s long-term happiness, contentment and positive attitude.”
I will make the decision about where my child plays based on perspective, knowing the actual chance of my child being on the national team is much less than .01% and so while I need to support her dreams, I must not be sidetracked by her dreams to the point that it affects her positive attitude and long-term happiness.
I want my decision about where my child will play to be based on the Soccer Parenting Value Statement of Love of the Game: “We acknowledge that every child has varying levels of athletic potential and we seek to establish an environment where ALL children can play youth soccer because they LOVE TO PLAY, not because they want a college scholarship or a professional contract.”
If U.S Soccer is focusing on being a path for my child to the National Team and if the ECNL is focusing on being a path for my child to play in college, who is focusing on being a path for my child to develop a love for the game?
Love of the game is the message I will give my daughter today as she steps onto the field in front of more than 100 college coaches at the Jefferson Cup Showcase. I will tell her to walk onto the field and pause for a moment and find a deep joy in the chance she has to experience the game in a competitive environment and encourage her to not focus on her dream of playing in college, but instead focus on the thrill of competition and how deeply she loves the game.
When parents lose their perspective is when so many of the negative issues with youth soccer occur.
When parents lose perspective they focus too much on winning instead of development, they have their child specialize in soccer too early resulting in burn out or over-use injuries, they have poor behavior on the sidelines and they put too much pressure on their child.
I want our soccer leadership to be guiding me when it comes to having perspective as a soccer parent, not facilitating the loss of perspective with their marketing messages as they fight over the playing time of my child.
When we are instead inundated with marketing messages of Love of the Game, Balanced Outlook, and Coach Integrity we will no doubt be on the path towards developing world class players – and people.