No, no — not talking about parents raising voices during games. We need to be restrained and supportive. If someone shoots video of you at a game and posts it on YouTube, it needs to be one of those videos that gets about 10 views, not something picked up on Tosh.0 or headlined “CRAZEE SOCKER MOM LOLOL!”
We need to raise our voices on the issues of youth soccer. We need to let coaches and clubs know what we need if we’re going to keep entrusting them with our kids.
Coaches are probably still thinking this idea sounds like an utter disaster. That’s because they already hear from some parents. They hear from the parents who are upset that their kids aren’t playing and winning for the Super Elite Red 04s or whatever. Not coincidentally, these are often the most ignorant parents.
We’ve all seen this, right?
(I still have no idea why Beijing’s Olympic Stadium, which is artistically displayed in the SportsMyriad banner, is the backdrop.)
No, we need to hear from the other parents. The ones who just want their kids to learn and have fun. Not coincidentally, those are the kids who are going to live up to their potential in this sport, whether it’s a World Cup appearance or good time in the local rec league.
Because one thing we’ve learned from the Great Age Group Kerfuffle of 2015 is that we parents aren’t getting much respect. Your experience may vary, but in talking about the switch to birth-year age groups with various coaches and administrators at many levels, I’ve found a lot of them don’t really care to hear what parents have to say about it.
And parents have legitimate concerns (some expressed in detail at SoccerParenting.com):
- They’re worried that their kindergartners will be in the minority in their age group alongside first-graders who are far more accustomed to a structured environment. (As it turns out, clubs have flexibility at this level, but that’s just being whispered rather than trumpeted.)
- They’re worried that their teams in the teen years may have half their kids in high school and the other half not, leaving clubs in the lurch when high school soccer is in season. (I haven’t heard a solution to this.)
- In general, they don’t understand why their teams of friends have to be busted up just so they can supposedly become better soccer players. How does that really help? And to what end?
- How is it any simpler for coaches, clubs and administrators to have birth-year age groups when the “season” is still a school-year season? (More on this tomorrow!)
The typical response: “Oh, don’t worry, it’ll all work out.” (How?)
And parents have other legitimate issues to raise and questions we should all be asking:
- Why do we have to drive all over creation to play games instead of playing the neighboring club?
- Why did you force my 8-year-old to play goalkeeper without even teaching her how?
- Why are you holding tryouts for 8-year-olds that put them on a “travel” track or a “rec” track, then offering very little for those on the “rec” track to catch up as they grow into their bodies?
- Why do you think U9s and U10s can’t pass the ball when we’ve been seeing kids from U7 on up spreading out and calling for the ball? Should they be playing U11 even though they’re about a foot shorter than anyone else in the age group?
- Why don’t we have better training for parents who want to be good coaches?
- Why don’t we have time to play multiple sports, when every reputable study on the subject and tons of world-class athletes say we should?
And maybe the biggest: Why does this cost so danged much?
These are just some of the issues Single-Digit Soccer addresses. And my hope is that the book starts (or at least contributes to) a movement in which parents become better-educated consumers.
And check out some of the sites doing similar work — the Changing the Game project, the Aspen Institute’s Project Play, SoccerParenting.com, and surely a few sites I don’t yet know about yet. (Please tell me about them.)
We can take ownership of our kids’ soccer futures. We don’t have to go along with everything coaches and clubs tell us. Read up and speak out!