A Winning Introduction to Soccer for 4-8 Year Olds – Webinar Recap - Soccer Parenting Association
Soccer Parenting Association – Inspiring Players by Empowering Parents
Make Youth Soccer Better and SHARE:

A Winning Introduction to Soccer for 4-8 Year Olds – Webinar Recap

Thanks to nearly 250 of you who joined us for our latest webinar with two coaching experts - Nick Levett of UK Coaching, and Pammie Sichangwa of Sting Soccer Club. We discussed coaching tips, advice for parents, and all your questions along the way too!~

Here you can watch a quick recap of the webinar, or if you want to watch the full webinar - head to the Soccer Parent Resource Center to grab a FREE 3-Day pass!

We hope you enjoy.

The Importance of being a Supportive Soccer Parent

Join The Soccer Parent Resource Center

When you join the Soccer Parent Resource Center you will have access to hundreds of articles, interviews, courses, short videos, community forums, and more!

All specifically created to help you support your soccer playing child.

TRANSCRIPT: 

Skye:

I always like to try to reference one of our value statements from Soccer Parenting as we're kicking these off. We have six value statements at Soccer Parenting, this one is for active health, love of the game, coach integrity, so we always try to follow one of them. I think the one for active health is the one that resonated the most based on how we're framing this conversation. Just this concept of long term athlete development, what we're really trying to do for our children, and really understanding that youth soccer participation supports an active lifestyle. The longer that our children play sports, the more likely they are to be healthy and active adults.

At the end of the day, we want these early experiences with our children in the game to really highlight this concept of movement and athlete development, and just developing really healthy habits that they can take with them forever. I'm going to go ahead and stop my share, and we're going to chime in. Thanks, guys. I see a couple people are raising their hand. Just go ahead and pop any questions you might have into the Q&A, that's where I will be monitoring as I'm going through this today, so I will be monitoring the Q&A. Guys, this webinar is so important to me specifically because in the United States, at least, we have a really big drop off of kids after just one year of participation.

We all referenced this later drop off that happens around puberty 13, 14. There's a variety of statistics that are floating around, but we know there's a significant drop off of these older kids, but we also are aware of this younger dropout as well. What my hope is that because it's parents that are making decisions for their children at these young ages, that today we're able to just really give some clarity to parents that are making these decisions about what this introductory experience for soccer could look like. When we think of a children's early experiences with the game, we often think of coaches, the players, the way our child is picking up skills and learning all of these things.

But I think, interestingly, what often is not thought about is the role of the parent and the role of the parent in those early experiences. Pammie, let me start out with you, and just from a broad perspective, what are the key roles of parents when it comes to their children having a good initial experience for the game?

Pammie:
Well, as a parent, you're going to have the child before the game, so are they ready? Do they have all their equipment? Do they have enough water? Do they have the right sized soccer ball? Are they in the right mood? I don't know if anybody else who has a four-year old has battled the seams on the socks issue. When my daughter was little, the seams on the sock would throw her into a funk. It just didn't feel good. It wasn't right. It was too tight. It was too loose. Just have them start with a fantastic day. Help them through those struggles. Have them arrive early so they can be in the right frame of mind.

Make sure you're on the right field so you're not adding stress to them. Have fun in the car. Don't overthink the ride. Just be happy and excited to get them there and have them ready.

Skye:
Yeah. No, I love it. Awesome. Nick, any other things come to mind for you?

Nick:
We just take it too seriously. Especially the younger bit that we're talking about here, if we're talking about four, five, six-year old kids, right, they've been on the planet 60 months, right? It might be soccer, I'm going to call it football, Skye. I can't do that.

Skye:
No, that's fine. That's fine. We're good.

Nick:
It is barely football. It's a group of kids coming together to explore, running around and smiling and falling over and meeting some new kids and being shy and being confident. We've just got to let the kids be kids and relax and have fun and really not get too heat up on anything when they're really little.

Skye:
Yeah, and kids can really feel our energy. Pammie, you were referencing that, like just don't be stressed in the car or whatever. Children can sense our energy. Have you experienced that at all with your kids, like realizing? I know I have, like in the moment, going, "Oh, wow. I am stressed right now and Cali can feel it." Has that thought ever crossed your mind?

Pammie:
I don't discuss the game before with my kids. If their coach has mentioned, if it's an important game or not an important game, that's really up to their coach. We go up. We're happy go lucky. When they jump out of the car it's, "Hey, have fun. Do well."

Skye:
Yeah, and just leave it at that. Good. Well, you did better than me.

Sideline Behavior and The Sideline Project


TRANSCRIPT:

Skye:

Let's talk about sideline behavior. We've alluded to it a couple of times, but I want us to dive into this in terms of how a parent should be acting specifically during a match. If you were having a meeting with parents before your first game, what would you be telling parents your expectations are for them in terms of their behavior? Pammie, you want to start on that?


Pammie:
I would love to. I need you to let the kids make their own choices and their choices are likely going to be wrong, and that's okay. Hopefully they'll learn from those. That's half the fun of the game, is trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. I ask the parents to be quiet enough that the kids can hear each other's voices, that the kids can hear my voice. They know your voice, but they're new to me. It's going to take a lot of learning for them to be able to hear me. I also need to make sure that they're not getting conflicting information. Because if I'm yelling, where's the space, and your dad's yelling, dribble, dribble, dribble.

When you've got three people coming at you, the child is about to let down one of the adults that they care about. Children will do well when they can. They're not trying to mess up. But if I'm saying one thing and their other adult is saying one thing, they're about to let one of us down and then they feel sad about that.

Skye:
Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Your voices, collectively, shouldn't be louder than the children's voices on the fields. They should be able to hear themselves, because I think it gets out of control when it's one parent and then two and then 10 and then everyone is out there. Nick, what would be your comments for it?

Nick:
My summary would be just rewind 30 seconds and listen to exactly what Pammie just said, and then, tell everybody that. I'm stealing that phrase. Don't want to let down one of the adults. That's a really nice phrase to use because, in certainly a lot at the younger age the kid's natural affirmation will be go to mom or dad. It won't naturally be going to coach until they get in the groove of doing that. Almost you want the parent to reinforce that for you, not to look at you. If they do turn around and look at you as a parent, it's over to the coach. Just constantly we want the parent to divert it back to the coach rather than the parent try and solve the problem for the kids.

Because if you think about the first few years, that first four or five years of a kid's life, the parent has had to solve most of the things for the kids. Getting dressed, brushing your teeth, doing their breakfast, cooking them dinner. You've done most of the things for the kids, so they look to you to solve those problems. But now, we're starting to change that and there's a different grown up there to hear and support. They're going to school so that they're getting some of this now from a different adult in their teacher at school. It's just another version of that, so how you can deflect back to the coach rather than feel like you have to give all of the answers is really important. But just go back, listen to what Pammie said, and then just do that.

Skye:
At Soccer Parenting, I mentioned at the beginning we're going to talk a little bit about the Sideline Project. At the Sideline Project, what we've done is we've bucketed behaviors for parents and coaches helping them say, "This is the way I'm acting, or this is this behavior." The three buckets are supportive, distracting, and hostile. It's pretty clear what hostile behavior is in the sidelines, that would be screaming at your child, or as they get older referee or unfortunately other players, whatever that hostile behavior might be. I'd love for you guys to take a stab at the difference between supportive behavior and distracting behavior.

Just to give parents some frame of reference there. We touched on it, but any thoughts coming to mind with that? Pammie, I know you've listened to the Sideline Project, specifically the course, so any thoughts there?

Pammie:
Yeah. My biggest thing is, are you reacting to what they have done or are you trying to make the choice for them? Are you trying to direct them or are you trying to react? I don't want you to direct. I don't want you to yell, "Kick it, look for this, play this person, look for space, go with the ball." I want you to wait for your child to make that choice and then react to it. If it's fantastic, then we cheer loud. If it's not fantastic, you still cheer. That's part of the learning process, but I don't need you to tell them what to do. I need you to react to what choice they've made. That's a really hard thing as a parent, because you feel like you're helping, right?

Skye:
Yeah.

Pammie:
A few years ago I had a mom who was, she wasn't doing anything that I would've been overly critical about. She's just supporting and yelling and giving a little bit of instruction to her child. Her child stops on the field and turns and says, "I'm trying." Then, burst into tears because she yelled at her mom and she felt so bad about it. But the pressure that we're asking them to do, they're trying to make so many decisions in a really quick frame of mind. When the parent is giving them those instructions, they really can't figure out what they want to be doing. It's just-

Skye:
Yeah. Nick, I saw you writing some notes. Were you writing some notes?

Nick:
I was writing some notes. I'm relatively diligent at times. It doesn't happen often. I think we have to assume that parents generally think they are being helpful. I like to think of that as the default position, otherwise I'm just getting really frustrated with them. They think they are being helpful and providing what they think is going to be of value to the kids. Often, they don't, and it can be a little bit misguided. Similar to Pammie, I had an experience watching a kid's game, ball went across to the kid. This was a U7 match. Ball went over, out wide to the kid.

Their parent was stood behind their load space, ball went towards the kid, the parent shouted, "Relax." The kid just went, "Jesus, what was that?" The ball went off the pitch. I'm like, "You have the entire opposite effect of what you were trying to do." It's a bit like if I tell my wife to calm down, that doesn't solve the thing. Just generally try not to do that. The thing that frustrates me that sometimes I think coaches are a little bit to blame because we could help the parents a bit more. For example, I see a lot in youth football here, you hear the, get rid of it, kick it out thing. The kid will kick it off the pitch and all the parents clap.

I'm like, "No, I don't want you to clap that." Again, the parents think they're being positive and supportive. No, that's not what I want you to be positive and supportive about. I want you to be positive and supportive about the kid that stays on the ball and tries to dribble it. That's what I want you to be positive about, not the kid that boots it off the pitch and we'd give possession to the other team. But that's on me to talk to the parents to say, "Look, this is what we are working on. This is the stuff I want the kids to be, that we've done in practice that I want to see them try and do in games.

This is what I want you to try and provide some affirmation about, that they've tried to do that." I always go back to, it's about intention, not outcome. Are the kids trying to do the right thing? They might be little and they might not be able to kick it that far, or it just might get intercepted or it might come off their foot wrong and go ... Is it about, are they trying to do the right thing? If we've been doing dribbling in training last week and I want the kids to stay on the ball, I don't care where they are, I don't care if we give the ball away and the other team score, stay on the ball, stay on the ball.

If you kick it off, then I'm going to [inaudible 00:50:12] you. Stay on the ball. I want the parents to reinforce the same things, not kick it off the pitch and clap, because that's just madness.

Skye:
Yeah.

Pammie:
Do you communicate that with the parents ahead of time to, what we're working on, what I want you to be cheering for, or how do you communicate that with parents?

Nick:
Yeah, absolutely. At the start of the game, we'll go back to, "In practice this week we did this, so this is what we're looking for in the game." Yeah.

Pammie:
Sometimes I'll take a stack of cones and if we're working on shooting, I'll give my own points, and you get one point for every time you take a shot. Even if it's wildly unsuccessful. You'll get two points if you make that shot and I'll take a handful of cones and I'll throw them into the pile. The kids can see the success of what we're working on. It's a visual cue for them. They might come off the field and say, "We won by 25." Because they got 25 points cause they took 25 shots. But I try to clue the parents in on that, "This is what we're working on." Now, I've got the whole crowd cheering wildly as we're missing shots.

But I think that communication from the coach, if you don't have that communication, open communication with the parents, you're not going to get the same success rate with that.

Nick:

Absolutely. But just go back to, as well, what's realistic expectations of a six-year old, of a seven-year old. I had a coach contact me and say, "My kids don't communicate during the game. They won't talk to each other." I'm like, "Okay, well, communication is important. How old are the kids?" "They're six." I'm like, "What do you expect them to be communicating about?" Who are their favorite PAW Patrol character is, or what's going on in Pokemon? That's probably what they would be communicating about.

Skye:
Yeah, in the middle of the game.

Nick:
Yeah. Not come in five yards, try and go man up. They won't do that. Just be realistic about what the kind of expectations are when the kids are playing.

Skye:

Yeah. I think that goes for the parents, the coaches, everyone. We just need to keep reminding ourselves, Nick, how you started this out with, they've been on this earth for 60 months or whatever you said. That's so important for us to acknowledge. A lot of times it's just our stress as a parent, whether that'd be about sideline behavior, is why we're telling them what to do in the moment, because we're literally stressing about it. We're pushing that off to our children or even as coaches, too. Having that confidence as a parent and as a coach to let our children just make mistakes in front of us because that's where their learning happens is so essential.

I have a couple of questions here and I know we need to wrap up, so I want to get to them. Thank you all so much for your comments here. John says, "My seven-year old son loves soccer and is pretty talented, but recently he became shy and is afraid to go into large groups of people. As a parent, what's the best way to guide him to overcome his fear and trust himself?" Pammie, you want to start?

Pammie:
I think you're going to need to involve the coach or what kind of situation is that? I had a little girl who was just afraid, afraid to go on the field. She didn't want to go anywhere. She wouldn't leave her parents. I just convinced her, "You know what? I'm just going to sit on the bench with you and we're just going to watch. Can you just watch your team? Because your team needs somebody to clap for you. They just need some support. If you want to play later, you can play, but you don't have to." She was happy to come sit on the bench.

Answering your Questions

TRANSCRIPT: 

Skye:
Thank you all so much for your comments here. John says, "My seven-year old son loves soccer and is pretty talented, but recently he became shy and is afraid to go into large groups of people. As a parent, what's the best way to guide him to overcome his fear and trust himself?" Pammie, you want to start?

Pammie:
I think you're going to need to involve the coach or what kind of situation is that? I had a little girl who was just afraid, afraid to go on the field. She didn't want to go anywhere. She wouldn't leave her parents. I just convinced her, "You know what? I'm just going to sit on the bench with you and we're just going to watch. Can you just watch your team? Because your team needs somebody to clap for you. They just need some support. If you want to play later, you can play, but you don't have to." She was happy to come sit on the bench.

If you can let your coach know what your child is struggling with, there's a lot of things that we can do. Four minutes into sitting on the bench she was asking when it was her turn. It is just a matter of just having somebody help you get that confidence to your kiddo.

Skye:
Yeah. Yeah. I think that coach interaction is so key there. As parents, we feel like our kids have so much pressure on them. We don't want to involve the coach in something that would demonstrate this weakness. I'm not insinuating that that is in any way with this parent, but I felt that before with my daughter. If we are really seeking these life lessons, these are the adults that are going to help them reach them. I love that. Nick, I remember you talking about Callum being shy or maybe that was somebody else. I don't want to remember it-

Nick:
Yeah. That's not Callum.


Skye:
Yeah. Any other thoughts for this dad or I think we nailed it with involving the coach?

Nick:
Yeah, definitely. Just little bits of communication that you can have with the kid. You might just say to your son or daughter, it was his son, I think, you might agree with the coach and say, "Look, I'm just going to, I've got my phone today and I'm just going to take some photos or some videos of you. Nobody, just you." You're narrowing the fear of others into, it's just me and mom, or me or dad, or me and coach. You can start to think about, [inaudible 00:55:08] to concentrate is you and I just want to see you go and do some really cool, magical stuff.

Skye:
Yeah.

Nick:
Especially if he's a talented kid, but I wouldn't worry too much about it because loads of kids at that age will be shy in groups of kids, will be shy talking to adults, will have one or two really close friends and that might be it, but we'll all find our way, but I wouldn't make a big deal of it. Other than just asking, are they okay and are you having fun?

Skye:
Yeah. The big picture there is the journey for learning for our children and how up and down and sideways and circular and it's just a zigzag.

About the Author Skye Eddy

Founder, SoccerParenting.com Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF “B” License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

follow me on:
>