Wednesday, February 14, 2007

JT's Blog - Myths No. 3 and No. 4 - Feb. 14

JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

3) The sooner your child specializes in just one sport, the better chance they have of advancing to a higher level (e.g. college, professional ranks).

I have spoken with many professional players over the years and most say they didn’t even think to specialize soccer until they were in high school, around the age of 15. When they were younger, they played a variety of sports as did myself, soccer, basketball and track depending on the season. Some coaches will pressure kids to play just one sport. You should be wary of this! In addition to burnout worries, ask yourself, “how does a child know which sport will be his or her best one, unless they try a bunch of different sports?” When they’re young, let them try more than one sport. And please don’t forget to let them have fun in whatever sport they play.

4) The very best time to teach your youngster how to improve their play is immediately after the game; ideally, in the car ride on the way home while their game actions are still fresh in their mind.

Coaches, we really need to take a look at what we say to our player’s right after the game. We also need to educate our parents that it’s not the right time to critique your player right after the game, especially if the team lost! We as coaches should demonstrate to our parents the proper way to discuss the game with the players. For example, what did you liked about playing today, what was fun, can you tell me something you did well and perhaps, is there anything you might want to practice or spend some time on. This might help the parents ask more non-threatening questions. Most of the time coaches and parents are telling players what they did wrong and how bad other players on the team were. Perhaps waiting until a quiet moment later in the evening or the next day would work better for the player in terms of being ready to really discuss the game. If not done correctly critiquing a young player’s game right after the match could drive them away from soccer.


Anonymous said...

3) I think an individual who plays more sports will be a better athlete. He/she will be using several motor skills, also the child will not feel burn out just playing one sport at a young age,also if the child loves the sport he/she will choose the one sport eventually.

4)I think parents need to just let the kids have fun, and yes right after a game is not the best time to discuss the game. A more suitable time might be later that day or even perhaps the next day.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that kids should specialize at such early ages either. They should just be allowed to have fun and be kids. They are not worried about what their best sport is when they are 10 anyway.

Anonymous said...

3 and 4 are both symptoms of the same problem. We have become too competitive at an early age. Children need to experiment and express themselves without parental pressure.

Jodie Smith said...

Playing different sports in many ways is a good thing. It allows the child to find what they not their parents enjoy playing. Plus all of the benefits of using and developing different motor skills unique to different sports.
The problem becomes when parents over commit in the number of things they sign the child up for.

Brandi said...

3. I think it is important for children to have opportunities to try different sports and activities. What I see though is a trend to overload them. Kids today have twice as many responsibilities and more homework. On top of the pressure to perform in school, many have the added expectation of success while playing several sports at one time. Many children have no time to just play and be kids. Coaches need to know what other activities and sports their players are involved in. This will allow the coach a better understanding of the player’s mental and physical condition during training and games. Understanding your players will lead to a less stressful atmosphere.

4. I wish more coaches realized the profound effect they have on players and parents.
Coaches, like teachers, become role models to both. Players and parents mimic behaviors that coaches display. We wield a great power that is often not used in a productive manner. Affecting parent behavior should begin with education. The next step is to “practice what you preach.” We need to insure that the FUN part of soccer is not squelched. Unfortunately, we do not have the ultimate say in how these kids are raised. However, we can make an enormous impact on their lives, even if we only see them for a few hours a week. We need to do our best to make training sessions fun and positive. Children need a safe and secure environment in order to grow and learn. Providing such an environment is a major component of our job.

Anonymous said...

I’d have to agree, specializing your child in one sport deprives them of the experience to develop an assortment of athletic mental models for which they can apply to sports and life.