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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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Please, Don't scream at the children

Reprinted from Soccer America Youth Soccer Insider:
October 5, 2016
By Mike Woitalla

Within the last few weeks, while coaching and refereeing, I observed a couple of very different kinds of youth coaches.

One played more than a decade of pro soccer, appeared for the U.S. national team, and runs a successful youth club.

The other was a novice to the sport, which I knew not just because he yelled at me to call offside when his goalkeeper's goal kick was intercepted by the opponent's forward.

The former pro, he sat on a folding chair the entire game and rarely communicated with the players on the field. The only time he stood up was to high-five players who were subbed out.

The newcomer coach prowled the sidelines and yelled instructions throughout the game. He had an assistant, who yelled almost as much as he did. The other team of 8-year-olds was led by three coaches, who also screamed the entire time. With parents yelling from the opposite sideline, it became 14 kids on the field having to hear from more than 10 “coaches.” If you listened to audio of this hour at a park on a Saturday morning, you’d never guess the event was supposed to be playtime for children.

To the credit of the league, it has implemented the guidelines for smaller fields to suit younger players. The downside, the adults are closer to all the players and the noise is even louder for the kids -- and the referee.

When you’re a ref, in the middle of the field, you hear the screaming as the kids do. In the best case, it’s such a cacophony of background noise that the words are incomprehensible -- and the kids can ignore them, one hopes.

But you also see when the kids look to the sideline to try and understand the words -- and the screaming coach or parent has just given the opponent an advantage. (Even if you’re such a brilliant coach that you believe your wisdom should be imparted during a game -- don’t do it when the ball is in play! You’re distracting them when their focus should be on the ball, their teammates, the opponents.)

As a ref, you get a close-up view of how the confidence drains from the kids who get screamed at after a mistake. You see their confused looks after receiving incomprehensible instructions from several adults at once.

When I watch older players, often on quite good elite club teams, squander scoring opportunities by shooting at the wrong time -- I wonder if that might not be thanks to the adult screaming they endured at the younger ages. Because one of the most common screams at youth soccer fields is “shoot, shoot, shoot!” -- when the kid is much better off dribbling closer to the goal before shooting. Or at least being given the chance to figure out on his own which of the options are best.

When a player has the ball, there are basically three options: dribble, pass or shoot. Don’t deny them to explore those choices on their own if you want to increase the chances of them making the best decisions at the higher levels, when they must be made in a split second.

“Pass it, pass it” is another popular scream at the younger ages, when we’re constantly hoping that in this country we develop better dribblers. In fact, it’s crucial that we encourage individual skills and creativity at the youngest ages. Imagine if you were given a team of 14-year-olds and half were excellent dribblers but needed to learn when to pass and the other half couldn’t dribble. It’d be much easier to encourage the dribblers to pass at the right time than to teach ball control skills to the group who spent their formative years without dribbling. And what do coaches at the highest level constantly look for in players? Near the top of the list: players who are good at “reading the game.” That’s an attribute more likely to be acquired from players who are allowed to learn from playing instead of trying to obey sideline screams.

Over the years, we’ve used all sorts of analogies to try and explain how absurd it is to scream at children while they’re playing soccer, why it’s bad for player development, and how it robs children of their playtime.

You wouldn’t scream at your 6-year-old at the playground, would you? Or when she’s drawing in a coloring book. Do you yell at your child while he’s doing homework? Would you like it if your boss looked over your shoulder at work and shouted instructions? My gosh, how would you react if you had not one, but two or three people yelling at you at the same time?

That novice coach, I observed him before and after the game, when I sat within earshot pretending to be checking my texts. He looked like an older dad or a young grandfather. I imagine he was like so many youth soccer coaches, volunteering because no one else was available to coach. So he took on the task even though he didn’t know the game -- but is trying his best.

And he was sweet with the kids, before and after the game. He joked a lot with them. Even during the game, much of his misguided instructions were peppered with words of encouragement, albeit unnecessary and distracting.

A big and fit man, he walked with a lumber like a former football lineman. And maybe his experience came from the more coach-centric traditional American sports, in which the coaches' play-calling is indeed part of the game -- unlike soccer, where a team's success depends on players making the right decisions on their own.

It does seem to me that the adults least familiar with soccer are the most likely to over-coach, although I do see it, to a lesser extent, from adults with a soccer background.

To those who actually believe that screaming at the kids while they're playing does any good, who think their shouts are somehow contributing positively to the children’s experience -- referee a few games. Run around in the middle of the action and listen to the sideline noise.

It will give you some insight into how you might sound and whether your shouts help the kids at all. And the next time you think you have something brilliant to share with an 8-year-old, you'll decide that a sideline scream isn't an effective way to deliver the information.
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High School vs. Club: Three questions

High School vs. Club: Three questions for Brandon Silva
Reprinted from Soccer America Youth Soccer Insider:
November 18, 2016
By Mike Woitalla

The bashing of high school soccer reached new heights with the U.S. Soccer Federation launching a Development Academy for girls (in 2017) and technical director April Heinrichs recently stating that high school ball is "not a player development environment. In fact, it develops bad habits and complacency."

Brandon Silva coaches the girls varsity team at New Jersey’s Immaculate Heart Academy, which finished No. 1 in the 2014 NSCAA national rankings and won state championships in 2014 and 2015. Silva is also a club coach, with Torpedos SC in Wyckoff, New Jersey, and serves as the NSCAA New Jersey State Technical Director for Coaching Education and is an NSCAA National Staff Instructor. We had these three questions for Silva:

What criticism of high school soccer do you find particularly objectionable?
The generalization of the level of high school soccer. Club coaches are concerned about the drop-off with players when they play for their high school and I disagree with that.
I think this depends on what high school the player attends, the coaches at the particular high school (are the coaches educated?), and to be honest, if players want to play at whatever the highest level it is they want then they need to put in time on their own.

Are there any criticisms of high school soccer from U.S. Soccer and club soccer that you believe are legitimate -- and if so are there solutions to the issues they cite?
One of the criticisms is coaching education or lack thereof with high school coaches. The solution would be, for example in New Jersey, the NJSIAA mandates that all high school coaches must hold a NSCAA High School Diploma or USSF C license to be able to coach in high school.
I also think that the district in which the coach is employed should compensate the coach for this particular license.
I strongly feel that if coaching is supposed to be player-centered and not coach-centered, then why can't club coaches and high school coaches get on the same page considering we should all be out there to give the players a great experience? High school coaches make very little money for the hour to coach players at any level, so that tells you something right there. Club coaches have two/three teams at a time, so the motivation can be much different.

Have you encountered situations where a player at your high school thought she might be better off forgoing the high school season?
Yes, I have and because I value the total high school soccer experience, my staff and myself respected the players' decision to not play for their high school but very much disagreed with the decision.
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