How to Keep Soccer Fun for Everyone
There’s an unfortunate stereotype of the sports dad or the soccer mom that exaggerates their behavior and destructive effect on youth sports. In fact, somewhere between 20 – 35 million American kids participate in youth sports every year, and the vast majority of them enjoy playing sports and being part of a team. Their parents are not destructive forces at all, but are supportive and help make sure that every student on the team is having a great time.
Keeping soccer fun is tremendously important. In surveys of children who quit organized sports, the number one reason for quitting is because they stopped having fun. The growth of youth soccer in America has slowed down slightly in the last five years, and it’s important that everyone involved do everything they can to make sure the children stay happy, motivated, and invested. Here are a few tips that will ensure that all the kids and parents are having a blast.
Have Structured Practices with Lots of Different Activities
For some children, the least fun part of playing organized soccer is the team practices. Practice sessions are very important, so that the children can learn to play together, develop fundamental skills, and get regular exercise, but they can sometimes be bogged down by drills or loose practice plans. If you’re coaching your son or daughter’s team, make sure that you have structured practices, so that kids are constantly moving and participating in fun activities. Running the same drill for 30 minutes will make kids not want to go to practice.
Help Children Learn at their Own Pace
In all youth sports, you will find kids on the same team who are at different levels of athletic ability, fitness, and skill. Sometimes those who have less experience playing the sport or are less skilled will feel nervous or unwilling to participate in practice and during a game. It’s the job of the coach and parents to help each child learn at his own pace, so that he can have fun and improve. Putting too much pressure on a young child to play as well as his teammates may actually cause him to stop playing completely.
Provide Positive Support and Build Confidence
Going hand in hand with helping them support their individual learning, parents and coaches can make soccer more fun by providing consistent support to all of the children participating. The best players on a team will always receive a lot of confidence and support from their excellent play and compliments. Don’t forget to support the less heralded members too. These children are slowly learning, but a little individual attention can go a long way.
Never Put a Child Down to Lift Another Up
This tip is very important. In competitive sports, it can be very easy to compare players, and this becomes even easier during a game between opposing teams. When you are helping a child feel better after a loss or getting them excited for a big game, remember that it’s inappropriate to disparage the other team or their players. Both teams can play hard and have fun as long as all the adults and coaches are keeping things positive.
Encourage Team Bonding and Play Outside of Sports
For some children, their favorite part of organized sports isn’t the exercise or competition—it’s the camaraderie. Youth sports are a great opportunity for kids to make friends and build connections that can extend to school and adulthood. After practice ends, the friendships don’t have to end too. Organizing group activities such as field trips to water parks, zoos, or bowling alleys, is a great way to help all the kids become friends and feel like part of a team.
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