Collaboration is a “Force Multiplier” and collaboration should exist between coaches and parents when youth soccer is working well. In writing this article, I reached out to Jason Dewhurst, DOC at FC Stars, Tiffeny Milbrett, former USWNT and active youth coach, and Stuart Singer, mental performance expert to get their take on collaboration in the coach-parent relationships. I often say this when being interviewed for podcasts or radio shows: Collaboration is a force multiplier. We will make youth soccer better, faster, if coaches, parents and club leaders collaborate.
Unless we are intentional about it being otherwise, the paths of a level headed parents and like-minded coach don’t often connect during a season. A team meeting now and then, friendly interactions after a game or practice, individual player feedback meetings, or electronically via emails or messages are the primary times coaches and parents connect.
Additionally, if a player is struggling, as Jason Dewhurst echos in his comments below, the coach and parent will hopefully meet as well. Since the interactions between coaches and parents are minimal, coaches and parents being on the same page and clearly aligning themselves around what the aim is for the season, is essential.
When there is agreement between coaches and parents about arriving at the same destination at the end of the season, players are likely to feel inspired, and thrive.
In the work I am doing with the Soccer Parenting Association, I often speak about this concept of “arriving at the same destination.” At the end of the day, what should all coaches and parents want for our players and children?
Is there a common destination coaches and parents can agree on that will guide our interactions and be the defining factor in determining if it was a successful season?
Yes, there is.
Youth soccer is working when players are inspired.
It is important to note that while coaches and parents should be seeking the same destination of players being inspired – they have completely different maps when it comes to how to get there.
The map for coaches can involve player development, practice planning, game management, individual player management, technical mastery and tactical understanding, leadership, player relationships, game time decisions, supporting players with the mental side of the game, and more.
The map for parents can involve getting players to and from training and games, supporting children with the mental side of the game, providing suggestions and guidance when asked about relationships with teammates and coaches, providing moments of ignition such as taking them to a professional game or tuning in to a game at home, finding the right playing environment for their child based on their athletic potential and mentality, playing with their child, and more. There are hundreds of articles and interviews for youth soccer parents to learn more about how they can support their child at the Soccer Parent Resource Center.
And of course, (because I can see the comments now) the players have a map we are not discussing. Yes, of course they need to lead their soccer journey!!!
Stress creeps in and youth soccer does not work when the parent and coach motivations are not aligned and our destination isn’t clearly defined.
Importantly, if coaches and parents can agree on the destination being Inspired Players then they can start to collaborate when the player is not thriving. I appreciate that Jason Dewhurst used the words inspired in his comments and Tiffeny Milbrett talks about providing honest feedback to parents. For instance, a player is starting to act out in training and so the coach reaches out to the parent. When the coach and parent can begin the conversation aligned around the concept of being sure the player feels inspired, and therefore start with a common focus – then transformational conversations will occur.
This is where the “collaboration is a force multiplier” concept really runs deep. In order for collaboration to occur, trust must be present.
When parents and coaches begin difficult conversations with no doubt that the top priority for both is to make sure the player feels inspired, real progress to benefit the player can be made.
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Everything you need to help your child be inspired by the game!
Players who are inspired continue playing.
Players who are inspired are likely to have higher intrinsic motivation.
Players who are inspired love the game.
In fact, try testing this statement out with anything you think should be the result of youth soccer.
Players who are inspired (are more likely to) win
Players who are inspired have more fun.
Players who are inspired develop into better soccer players.
Players who are inspired are better teammates.
Along those lines I asked parents to finish the statement “When my child is feeling inspired in soccer, he/she…” and these are some of the responses from youth soccer parents:
Is comfortable to try new moves and take risks.
Is confident and does his best.
Is more likely to try new things, be creative, and make mistakes without hanging her head.
Can’t see me! (We’ll dive into this in a moment!)
The role a coach plays in the inspiration of a player is enormous. Coaches must start to see the value in player inspiration and weave these concepts in to all they do.
Jason Dewhurst is the Director of Coaching for FC Stars and has been an assistant coach for the U-14, U-15 and U-16 United States Girls’ National Teams. Jason says:
Coaches should strive to inspire all of their players on a daily basis by understanding what inspires each of them individually, as all players are different. The best place for this is in the daily training environment. Every individual deserves attention to help them grow as a player and to continue their love of the game."
Tiffeny Milbrett, a retired USWNT whom was recently inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame, is currently a Director of Coaching and coach of 2 ECNL teams with the Colorado Rapids Youth Club. Tiffeny references “player inspiration” as one of her core coaching values.
My job is to facilitate experiences for players in which they can grow. While the player has to drive the journey, I am here to support, assess, and provide honest feedback to them and their parents.”
Performance psychology coach and expert contributor with the Soccer Parenting Association, Stuart Singer Ph.D., echoed Tiffeny’s sentiments when it comes to the role of the parent.
It ultimately has to be the player’s journey. As parents, our job is to help a bit with keeping them on the path, but it has to be the destination that they want and not ours - we're the GPS, but they get to put in the address we are headed to. If you notice them not wanting to go, not having fun, not discussing it very often, it may be time for you to self-reflect as a parent. One of the best things we can do is remind our children that the goal isn't a scholarship or pro contract its having fun right now playing a game, and hanging out with their friends. Everything else will take care of itself."
Parents and coaches working together to inspire players is the definition of parent engagement.
When this collaboration between coach and parent happens – when we are clear on the common destination - the positive impact on our game will be felt from the grassroots player to our National teams.