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Be a Great Team Parent

Tips for Parent Conduct, Team Trips, and Communication
Reprinted from Soccer America Youth Soccer Insider:
March 6, 2017
By Amy Whitley

Youth sports programs often can only run with the help of parent volunteers. Whether your role on the team is crucial (team manager) or mostly on the sidelines, it’s vital to keep sportsmanship and a helpful attitude front and center. Here’s how you can help!

Taking Charge of Team Communication

Take the burden off your (likely unpaid) team coach and volunteer to oversee team communication. It’s easier than ever to communicate with other team parents online and via phone, but start the season with a face-to-face team meeting. This is a great time to review expectations from other parent volunteers. Come prepared with information and schedules for:

• Team snack responsibilities and requirements: who brings what snacks and when?
• Transportation expectations: does everyone drive his or her own child, or will you carpool?
• End-of-season events such as a party or final meeting.

Most importantly, decide on a single method of communication for your team. Pick one communication app or website and stick to it. Gather every parent’s e-mail address and phone number if not already provided and give parents a heads-up how often you plan to communicate with them. Be mindful of privacy: choose a communication method every parent is comfortable with. For in-stance, some may not want to give their e-mail address, or others may not want to communicate via an online service. Apps and sites for team communications include TeamSnap, Closed Facebook Group, Teamer, Text Message List.

Planning for Games Away from Home

If your child is on a serious or competitive team, chances are, you’ll be traveling away from home for some games or tournaments. Plan as far in advance as possible, and use your communication method of choice to create carpools and to detail costs. Decide whether parents will be responsible for travel costs such as gas, food, and lodging individually or whether everyone will contribute to a travel fund.

If a hotel stay is part of your travel experience, try to stay at the same hotel chain each time to collect points in a hotel loyalty program. Many hotel brands also offer a discounted room rate if reservations are booked in larger blocks. Call hotels in advance to ask whether they offer this benefit. If so, block the rooms, and then request each family book individually. There’s no need to pay for all the rooms upfront.

Look for hotels that offer rooms with kitchenettes, which allow parents to store team snacks, keep water cold, and even make simple meals in the room. Always opt for a hotel with a complimentary breakfast and check what time it is served, in the case of early morning games. A laundry facility on hand is always helpful, and for after the game, a hotel pool is a fun attraction for the kids.

Dinner out can be a fun way to build community and bond as a team. However, group sizes can make restaurant visits hard. Call potential restaurants early in the day with an estimated head count and be sure to emphasize that it will be OK to split the group into several tables. This will ensure a shorter wait or avail-ability of seating. Ask for individual checks up front, and if kids are seated away from parents, instruct each parent to order for his or her child so wait staff won’t need to gather confusing orders from kids and checks are easier to split.

Ensuring Good Parent Conduct

All parents should work hard to instill good sportsmanship in their children, and of course a good attitude and positive conduct are crucial from mom and dad, too. Always make sure you’re cheering for your team, never cheering against the opponent, and that you leave any constructive criticism for your coach to dole out. Don’t instruct your child in any way during the game and only approach the player bench if instructed to do so.

Respect the referees as well and never engage in negative discussions or arguments with opposing parents. Instead, look for the common ground, which isn’t too hard to find: you’re all there for the same reason, to cheer on the kids and enjoy the sport. Remember that the kids are just kids and still learning. Save any conflicts or criticism for your coach until you can speak in private -- away from other players, your child, or other parents.

If a conflict does arise with another player or parent, do not engage. Walk away from an escalating situation or ask an official to intervene. If you see another adult who needs to curb his or her behavior, intervene as a group or with an official or coach.

At the end of the season, wrap up the year with a celebratory event or meeting to keep the goodwill flowing and to stay in touch with parents for future opportunities or teams. Recognize team success or achievements during your last event and consider rewarding young players with tools for their future success, such as balls or other gear, rather than with participation trophies.

Ask fellow parents whether you can save their contact information, or keep the communication app or service open so parents can continue to contact each other for support, additional events, or continued friendship.

(This article is re-published courtesy of FIX.com. Illustrations are also courtesy of FIX.com.)
(Amy Whitley is a travel writer, editor, and avid outdoorswoman living in Southern Oregon. Amy writes the NWKids column for OutdoorsNW Magazine, edits at Trekaroo.com, and founded the family travel site PitStopsForKids.com. She loves hiking, camping, and skiing with her three sons.)
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Game Day Checklist

Directions to the field.
Arrive at the time designated by coach (yes, we all have other obligations, but it's not fair to the other players to have your player arrive late).
Bring a chair to relax in while calmly watching the game.
Cheer for your child's team
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Code of Conduct

The Parent . . .
1. Does not coach the players (including their own child) from the sidelines during the game.
2. Respects the judgment of the referee and does not criticize officials.
3. Focuses on mastering soccer skills knowledge and, to some extent, game strategies.
4. Decreases the pressure on their child to win.
5. Believes that soccer's primary value is to allow youth the opportunity for self- development.
6. Understands the risks. A soccer game is full of mistakes. Playing soccer is a willingness to chance a failure.
7. Communicate with the coach and create a positive working relationship.
8. Controls negative emotions and thinks positively.
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Think food first: Refueling

Think food first: Refueling after training or games

Reprinted from Soccer America Youth Soccer Insider:
August 11, 2017

By Dev K. Mishra, M.D.

Here's another of those subjects that seems to make some people emotional -- why is it important for young athletes to refuel after exercise, when should this happen, and what drink/food is best?

The sports supplement industry has a massive foothold in this area, and for sure there are some great products available from highly reputable manufacturers. But I find that the two most important points are: sooner is better, and think food first.

When: Sooner is better, especially if you’ll be playing again soon

Muscles require fuel to function properly, and after a training session or a game your muscles will need the right fuel to recover. It’s generally believed that in the first hour or two after exercise the muscles are most receptive to refueling. If you don’t properly refuel and recover it means that your performance in the next session will likely be less than what you want. Without proper refueling you can have all sorts of issues such as easy fatigue, poor strength, muscle cramps, or heat exhaustion. And you probably won’t play very well.

Let’s now say that you’re doing multiple sessions in one day, maybe 4 to 6 hours apart. I’m not a fan of this type of training or competition but I have a feeling it’ll be around for a while. If this is the case, then you’ll want to start refueling as soon as possible after the conclusion of your first session. I don’t think you have to obsess about starting to refuel the second your first session ends, but if possible it would be best to start in the first 20 minutes or so. This will allow you to finish the food or drink in enough time to have it digested in your stomach, and for the muscle recovery effects.

Examples would include: • Football two-a-days • Tournament play with more than one game in a day, such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball • Triathlete training with one session in the morning and another in the evening If you have more time between sessions then you have more flexibility in your recovery options. Muscle recovery definitely continues for several hours after exercise, it just seems to be most efficient in the first hour or two.

What: Think Food First

I mentioned in my article “Do's And Don'ts of Supplements for Young Athletes” that pretty much every nutritionist and sports scientist would recommend actual food rather than supplements for your performance nutritional needs and I would say that’s true for after-exercise recovery too. Muscles actually need carbs for recovery, so be cautious about high protein and low-carb products when it comes to post exercise recovery. Many sports nutritionists like a 3 to 1 ratio of carb grams to protein grams in your recovery food or drink.

A couple of years back I purchased Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and in my opinion it remains one of the most sensible and science-based sports nutrition guides around. Here are some suggestions from her book about appropriate post-exercise foods:

  • Fruit smoothie (Greek yogurt + banana + berries) • Cereal + milk • Bagel + (decaf) latte • Pretzels + hummus • Baked potato + cottage cheese • Turkey sub • Pasta + meatballs

Clark also advises: “do not consume just protein, as in a protein shake or protein bar. Protein fills your stomach and helps build and repair muscles, but it does not refuel your muscles.”

My Favorite Post-Exercise 'Food': Chocolate Milk

Sure, you can buy fairly expensive engineered recovery drinks, bars, and powders but I’ve always been a big fan of good ol’ chocolate milk. Consider that a typical 8-ounce serving of chocolate milk contains about 26 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein (the 3 to 1 ratio), and actually tastes good. Who doesn’t like chocolate and milk? Drink up and play better!

Key Points: • Muscle recovery after exercise requires a combination of carbs and protein. • Muscle is believed to recover better if refueling starts in the first hour or two after exercise. • Start as soon as possible (ideally in the first 20 to 30 minutes) if you’ll be doing more than one training session or game in the same day. Sooner is better. • Think food first for recovery. Chocolate milk is an excellent choice for drink, as is a fruit smoothie, and several foods. If you prefer a sports drink or bar be sure to purchase from a highly reputable manufacturer.

(Dr. Dev K. Mishra, a Clinical Assistant Professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford University, is the creator of the SidelineSportsDoc.com online injury-management course, now a requirement for US Club Soccer coaches and staff members. Mishra writes about injury management at SidelineSportsDoc.com Blog.This article has previously appeared in the Youth Soccer Insider.)

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Soccer Parenting: 3 Ways . . .

Soccer Parenting: Three ways parents can improve youth soccer
Reprinted from US Club Soccer News Forum
By Sky Eddy Bruce

Some of the improvements we seek in youth soccer are the responsibility of the parents.

In fact, after a weekend of non-stop soccer talk I am more struck than ever before by the tremendous role parents can play in improving the youth game.

Here are three of my key takeaways:

3 Important Things Parents Can Do To Improve Youth Soccer

1. Encourage Free Play

All of the youth soccer experts at the Summit mentioned the need for us to allow for more Free Play when it comes to the soccer development of our children, but it didn’t stop there. Dr. John Cone, the fitness expert mentioned the importance of Free Play for athletic development and Dr. Jerry Lynch, a sport psychologist, discussed Free Play when talking about the development of an authentic love of the game.

As parents we understand it can be hard to find time for our kids to get outside and play and then when our kids do go outside, there’s often no one there! Everyone seems to be in structured activities most of the time. To combat this, many clubs are starting to offer “Free Play” evenings – where the kids can get dropped off and just play.

At the Summit, John O’Sullivan with the Changing the Game Project said, “Clubs offer an extra skills session, and parents sign their kids up. Clubs offer an extra session of Free Play, and no one shows up.” We need to change this dynamic.

If your club offers a Free Play session, rally some other parents to send their children, and GO!

There’s more to Free Play than just the soccer development that happens. Our kids are free of coaches watching, free of constraints, free to experiment and be extra creative, free to make mistakes, free to have fun. I just asked my daughter why she likes free play and her response: “Because it gives me a chance to just be able to hang out with my friends and have fun. It’s REALLY fun.”

When we can combine healthy and fun and development – we are doing something right.

2. Always keep the focus on the process

Another reoccurring theme of the Summit was to keep the focus on the process, not the outcome. Of course, we hear this a lot – focus on development, not winning. I have written articles about this subject and interviewed soccer experts about “Winning vs. Development.” However, I was struck by sport psychologist Dan Abrahams’ comments about this and how focusing on the process is the best path to helping our children learn the important life lessons we seek for them through sport.

Jerry Smith, legendary coach at Santa Clara and executive director of the Coaching for Life Academy suggested discussing the process, not the results, be the foundation for the coach/parent relationship. I think defining the coach-parent relationship that way is a great step towards improving the nature of the relationship.

But it doesn’t stop there….

Erik Imler and Lori Lindsey, former National Team members and Olympians both commented on the process and how different the developmental pathway can be for children and how as parents we need to maintain perspective when it comes to the goals and aspirations our children have, not putting too much pressure on children too soon.

And no conversation struck me more than when Kevin Hartman, legendary goalkeeper, a 17 year MLS veteran, the most decorated goalkeeper in MLS history, a former USMNT member – talked about the process that was involved in his personal developmental pathway.

Kevin wanted to be a professional goalkeeper since he started playing in goal at the age of 13, yet in his Junior Year in High School he played on the JV team. In his Senior Year in High School he split time on the Varsity team. He wasn’t heavily recruited to play in college and started out at a Junior College before finding his way to UCLA where he saw limited playing time until his Senior Year. He paid his own way to a MLS combine and then was drafted into the MLS.

What was consistent for Kevin from a very young age was that his number one focus was on the process of continually improving, taking personal responsibility for getting better and focusing on what he could learn and develop. If his focus had turned to the results, the team he didn’t make, the game he didn’t play in, the college scholarship he didn’t get – there is little chance he would have continued to play.

3. Expect more in the Coach-Parent Relationship

We must move beyond the rhetoric of the “crazy soccer parent” that has overtaken the Coach-Parent Relationship where coaches assume all parents are crazy and parents choose not to speak up because they don’t want to be perceived as a “crazy soccer parent.”

As parents, we need to recognize that we are often simply stressed about the process for our child and need some guidance and support in helping them thrive. When we are feeling this stress, the coach should be someone who helps us, because helping and guiding the parents, helps the players.

Coaches need to expand their job description and realize that if they are a youth soccer coach part of their job is to educate and guide parents, not avoid them.

We are all on the same team here, and our goal is to make the youth soccer experience of children who play, one in which they can thrive.

On Friday night of the Summit, Christian Lavers said that he anticipated more growth in the youth game in the next 5 years than ever before in that period of time as coaches and clubs start engaging with parents more and the coach-parent relationship improves.

Clubs need to include parents in the process, explain their club-wide plan for player development at various levels, and educate coaches about areas beyond the game, such as communication strategies, building trust with the parent-coach relationship and best practices for giving feedback to players.

When parents become more involved, the game will improve because parents will hold coaches and clubs to higher standards and parents will be empowered to make the best choices for the children when it comes to the environment in which they learn and play. The clubs that are rising to these higher standards will stand out from the other clubs, and the result will be an improved playing field.

There is much to do to improve youth soccer. Our organizing bodies must do their part, leagues and clubs must do their part, and parents must step up and do their part as well.

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