One of the things that has always baffled me about the United States is the arrogance and absolute belief that many youth sports parents have that they have been ordained experts in a chosen sport as they have watched some games.

The Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association’s Grassroots Mandate has managed to both bring out the best and worst in people. Many clubs across the state have simply knuckled down to getting all those who will be on a touchline to obtain the minimum requirement of a Grassroots license. When I say many, I mean the vast majority.

A few clubs and communities have, of course, taken the opportunity to call and tell me how wrong we are to suggest that every travel age player deserves a qualified coach. During these calls I have been told amongst other things that:

  1. We are just trying to get rich.
  2. Their local coaches know more than the educators who are teaching the licenses.
  3. Their community is a one-off island where kids have different needs and wants than the rest of the children in the state.
  4. Due to their service to the game, they should be exempt from any sort of licensing mandate.
  5. I should go back to England as their club has no interest in producing ODP or mini-academy players.
  6. They know more about coaching and kids than I will ever know.

As you can imagine, there have been some lively conversations. During these conversations as I have had them many times, I typically explain about the scary numbers of kids leaving the game by 11 years of age. (Source: Youth Sports Participation by the Numbers | ACTIVE kids)

I talk about Dr. Amanda Visek’s work on fun integration theory that can be found here: The Fun Integration Theory: Towards Sustaining Children and Adolescent Sports Participation

I also share information gathered from other states that have introduced mandatory licensing programs and have seen increases in the number of adults wanting to coach and increased levels of participation.

I share my thoughts on the old-fashioned idea that being a volunteer means meeting an unspoken promise to always be the best you can be.

As you can probably imagine, I also try and move the conversation to the heart of the matter. How much they understand the child in front of them (cognitive, physical, psycho-social and cultural child), how they design practices that challenge every child and typically ask them to break down one core skill into its components. This is a conversation that never goes well. They either refuse to answer or take the time to remind me that they are experts who will always know more than I do about coaching and kids.

I do not know if this will ever change and suspect that asking people not to consider themselves experts by virtue of time spent on fields will always be a problem.

I do know that I have been on hundreds of flights but could not fly a plane and would probably never tell a pilot how to do it either.