The article I published last week, 6 Reasons Parents Should Not Watch Practice, was republished by SoccerAmerica’s Youth Soccer Insider and widely distributed via Social Media. My intention was to start a conversation about the merits of parents of elite soccer players not attending their child’s practices on a regular basis – and wow, did that conversation ever happen! Thanks to the literally hundreds of you who joined the conversation and commented on SoccerParenting.com or on Facebook or who sent me emails directly.
I absolutely loved hearing from a group of parents in California who were pushed over the edge with the article and decided to finally start a practice-time exercise/running club that they had been discussing for months – complete with a rotating parent watching the siblings who were dragged along to practice!
I loved hearing from many parents who had received the article from their coaches or clubs or seen it on social media and were thankful for the message because it helped them think about something they had not thought of before.
I didn’t necessarily love hearing from the handful of parents that were personally offended or felt as though they were being banished from ever attending practice.
I especially didn’t love hearing from (a few) parents who felt as though their coaches or clubs were using this article as a means of explaining to parents why they should NEVER attend practice.
The mission of SoccerParenting is to BRIDGE THE GAP that often exists between parents and coaches because this gap ultimately holds back the growth of the game in the United States. Interestingly, one of the unintentional consequences of this article was to, in SOME instances, highlight a portion of the GAP between parents and coaches in need of being BRIDGED – THE COMMUNICATION GAP.
Coaches and parents must collaborate in the development of this generation of players – especially in the United States – where we don’t have a long cultural history with the game, where the ultimate purpose of youth sports in our society is often misunderstood and where many of our youth coaches are first generation coaches.
For this collaboration between parents and coaches to exist – there must be a general level of mutual understanding, authentic communication and trust between parties. (A good topic for another article, it seems!)
I think many coaches forwarded the article to parents with no communication – just a simple link. Of course, the intention from these coaches was to put some helpful information into the hands of parents. What many of these coaches failed to do was to be empathetic in their understanding of how their email could have been received from the parents. I think there are many clubs and coaches that learned a great lesson about communication as they forwarded the article without comment, and I would imagine these coaches will likely communicate differently in the future.
I would hope the message when the article was forwarded from coaches and clubs was authentic communication such as:
Please Read This – It raises some excellent points about how your elite soccer player may feel if you attend their practices and the benefits that they may receive if you are not in attendance all the time. I have no problem if you watch a portion of practice or even an entire session now and then, but I do think these points are valid and I sincerely hope you consider them. If you would like to discuss this article at all, feel free to reach out to me.“
I also think there were many parents who took the article personally and felt as though they were being called out for attending training or denied an opportunity to be involved with their child. Many of these parents may have quickly responded to the coach via email. Of course, the intention from these parents was to defend their right to watch practices and also to possibly defend themselves from being perceived as a Crazy Soccer Parent. In these cases, I would imagine the parents wish they had taken 24 hours to think about their response to the article, and that these parents will communicate differently in the future.
We must remember we are all on the same team here and, in many cases, we are figuring this out together! Parents and coaches must strive to always communicate with each other constructively and honestly. Parents must believe that the coach has the best of intentions with their focus on the positive development of the player/our children and coaches must work to earn the trust of the parents through their professionalism.
Clearly, youth soccer is developing all over the country as evidenced by the positive development of the youth game through the formation of some extremely competitive leagues (with professional, forward thinking youth coaches) in the past 5 years as well as the development of new US Soccer coaching curriculums focused on expanding the knowledge of our youth coaches.
Will I ever attend my daughter’s practices in the future? Of course I will! I just am going to be selective and thoughtful when I do. I am going to be thoughtful because I acknowledge that when I do watch her practices I am subtly changing the practice environment for her and her coaches.
I think my daughter summed up the intentions of the article and the need for continually improved communication between parents and coaches when I asked her:
“How do you feel with me not being at practice this year?”
Her response was:
“I didn’t mind you being at my practices before, it just feels DIFFERENT now.”
Sometimes different is better.