Why Youth Soccer Parents Should Never Attend Practice if They Care About Player Development
By Chris Hummer
We’ve all read about or witnessed poor parent behavior on the sidelines during youth soccer games, as many have debated how a focus on winning games affects player development. In those arguments, focus is very much on the negative impact on player development. But in my opinion, for well coached teams at least, none of those negatives compare to the lost potential of positive impact coaches could have with their players, if parents simply stayed away during practice time.
If parents aren’t allowed to be in the classroom during school hours, why do they line the sidelines at practices?
I think it’s safe to say most parents understand they would only be interfering in the learning process if they were right there in the room while their son or daughter was trying to remember what year the War of 1812 began.
While a lot of coaches will make speeches to parents about deemphasizing winning in favor of development, few would ever dare try to ban parents from their classroom. Some big clubs try, a few do it successfully, but most of those are professional academies operating much more like prestigious private schools with 10 year waiting lists, than where the vast majority of soccer learning takes place every weeknight.
Even though few coaches might try to make it a policy proactively, if you ask most of them privately and sincerely, they’ll tell you it would indeed be better for everyone if parents stayed away from practices completely.
Why would the soccer learning be better without parents watching over?
I’ll answer that question by asking five different ones:
- Would you want the parent of someone who worked for you sitting in your office all day watching every task you assign their son or daughter?
- Do you think children are more, or less, confident in a group environment when a parent isn’t around?
- Do you think players are more, or less, likely to “work through the pain or problem” when mom or dad isn’t there?
- Do you think information and lessons shared by a coach (or teacher) is more impactful when the information isn’t “questioned” by a parent to their child in the car ride home?
- Do you think the coach or teacher’s chosen lesson plan for the day is more, or less, respected by the player when those choices are “questioned” by parents?
Simply put, if I could choose between parents who get a little too involved in the game action on Saturdays, and having completely “closed” practices during the week, I’d take the closed practices every time. It’s simply better for teaching when the players are TOTALLY focused on the coaches and the lesson at hand. While coaches can still teach while you are watching, the ultimate outcomes will simply go so much better if you’re not… and isn’t that what the customer really wants most?
What to Do Instead?
I understand there isn’t enough time for most parents to do much else in the 60-90 minutes of a typical training session, but in today’s digital world, I’m not buying that as a real valid reason for popping up the lawn chair. If you’re too far from home to go grocery shopping without the ice cream melting, aren’t the athletic type yourself who can go for a run, and don’t want to spend last year’s raise on Starbucks; at least park away from the field and catch up on work email or the latest Netflix.
Your coach will thank you, even if they won’t admit it now to your face.
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