Player Development – Breakin’ it Down with Burk (Episode 2)

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Last week in Breakin’ it Down With Burk (Episode 1), we shared a walk through the different game formats that we use to help players learn from the beginner level to the full game. In this week’s episode, we will be discussing how the competitive side of youth soccer is, to a certain degree, unavoidable. Players want to win.

Breakin’ it Down with Burk (Episode 2)

If you’ve been to enough youth soccer games, you’ve seen and heard this situation hundreds of times. An attacking player dribbles the ball down the sideline while their teammates race to keep up. Defensive players scramble back to defend their goal area. A shout goes up from parents and coaches…

“CROSS IT!”

Or maybe this example is more familiar. After a corner kick, the ball bounces around in the goal box. This time, two choruses vie to be heard…

From the defending team’s fans, “CLEAR IT!” And, not to be outdone, from the attacking team’s fans, “SHOOT!”

We are going to examine whether moments like this are beneficial or detrimental to our children’s soccer learning journeys.

The competitive side of youth soccer is, to a certain degree, unavoidable. Players want to win. Parents want to see their children win. Coaches want to feel successful. At the end of the day, our job as adults (whether we are coaches, parents, or both) is to remember that while winning is nice, it is NOT the most important goal of youth soccer.

The US Soccer Federation tasks its Grassroots coaches with creating an environment that includes Enjoyment, Respect, Safety, and Player Development. Winning is not required for such an environment! Furthermore, a 2019 study determined that winning is not a key factor for children to enjoy playing sports. Features such as a supportive environment, playing a variety of positions, and a sense of improving far outstrip winning in their impact on players’ enjoyment.

If Learning and Fun are more important than Winning, do we improve the youth soccer experience by yelling instructions during key moments such as those described above?

In many cases, parent sideline behavior can become a distraction and increase player anxiety. Does sideline instruction help players learn? The US Soccer Federation lists “Read and Understand the Game and Make Decisions” as the most important quality for players to develop at the Grassroots level.

Directive instruction takes the burden of reading the game off of players and inhibits the learning process. When players can make their own decisions based on cues from the game, real learning occurs from the outcomes. The role of the coach is to support the players in learning to understand the game and to help players recognize the consequences of their in-game choices and actions.

How then can we as parents best support the learning environment?

Make sure your child and their teammates feel supported. Encourage your children to do their best, and tell them, “I love to watch you play!” Ask them questions after the game. “Did you have fun?” “What was your favorite part of the game?” “Did you learn anything new?” Learning occurs when children feel empowered to make their own decisions in a fun and supportive environment. Thank you for helping make MSI soccer fields places where fun and learning happen!

Interested in learning more about being the best soccer parent you can be? MSI is proud to partner with the Soccer Parent Resource Center to share content with every member of our club. Click here to create your own FREE Soccer Parent Resource Center account! Here are some links from their site related to the topic of this post.

Dear Parent – Sideline Behavior by Skye Eddye, site founder

Expectations for Parents – Game Environments

How to Help Your Child from the Sidelines

Learn more about the History and Values of MSI Soccer Inc.

More to explore