What exactly do parents want? That’s an important question for youth soccer clubs and coaches, and one worthy of extended discussion. So, in a completely unscientific study, I asked 25 youth soccer parents what they want from their child’s coach and club. This is the second of several posts that will look at what they said.
A dad of a player I once coached told me, “These girls are not going to remember many of their teachers, but they will remember their coaches."
It’s true. I can’t remember my fourth-grade teacher, my eighth-grade science teacher or several others along the way. But I remember all my coaches – some, however, not so fondly.
So if you are going to be remembered, how do you want to be thought of? The parents I talked to provide some good advice on the topic.
It really should come as no surprise that parents are concerned about the way coaches act and behave around their children. Appropriate language and no off-color jokes is not too much to ask. Proper behavior, however, goes beyond the obvious.
“Sportsmanship and integrity come from the coach,” said one mom. “It should start at home, but many kids learn it through their coach. I remember one of the best coaches my son had. He preached integrity on and off the field. Players were to be respectful of their parents, teachers, coaches, referees and each other.
“And he really walked the walk. When he made a mistake, he apologized.”
Several parents pointed out how coaches underestimate the kids they coach. The players understand much more than some coaches think. I came across an example of this when I was training a U12 team this winter. During a break, I asked them if their coach ever used bad words. They laughed and said, “No. When he wants to cuss, he walks down the sideline and kind of mumbles to himself. We know what he’s doing.”
The kids, whether you realize it or not, are watching.
“Coaches need to understand the gravity and the impact they have on kids’ lives,” said one mom. “Children see right through their lack of integrity and false words. They can’t say one thing and do another.”
Parents also want their coach to exhibit class. The kids, they say, will remember their actions in difficult times, and they will definitely notice how the coach treats people. Not just players on his or her team, but referees and the opposing team and coaches.
“Showing respect to a team you have beaten is extremely important,” said one dad. “Whether a close win or a blowout, those kids just lost, and they deserve good treatment for their efforts.
“It’s easy to congratulate the other team when you win, but sometimes teams play well and still get beat,” he added. “That’s a moment to congratulate the victor with class. Sometimes teams play poorly and get beat. That’s when it’s harder to congratulate the opponent when feeling bad about your own effort. But it’s still important to act with class. Generally, the coach helps set the tone for both of these scenarios.”
The bottom line? Parents want their child’s coach to understand that as a coach you are influencing the lives of impressionable youngsters. Your behavior in front of them, in moments big and small, is important. The kids are watching you.