Over the years, I’ve coached plenty of close games, even developing mini-rivalries of sorts (nothing serious, but two good teams playing each other often).
I’ve noticed at times, that both coaches and parents can get a little over-involved in the game. When one team scores the parents and coach of that team cheer just a little louder and enjoy that success just a bit more than your average weekend league game. And I’ll admit that I’ve done it myself too.
And as sport goes, it’s not unusual. The competitor in us naturally wants to come out on the winning side and it takes something to remember that we are engaged in a development process, especially in the heat of the moment.
So as we sit watching that league or tense tournament game, is there a better way to watch? Is there a context we can see the game in that’s more beneficial for the kids?
A New Set Of Lenses
Traditionally, a youth soccer match is us vs. them. Any match is. It’s NSA vs. Galaxy, NSA vs. Team Chicago, NSA vs. Ajax. And as we watch the game play out, I feel that most parents and coaches want their kids to best the others.
Heck, those are our kids and if they don’t come out on top, what does that say?
We can watch the game through a different filter, context or a new set of lenses.
Let’s use a hypothetical game. Say that this game has two teams, playing 7v7, and each team has 10 players on it.
What if we chose to see the game as all 20 players on the same development journey?
Not just the players on ‘our’ team, but every kid on both teams. Every player that takes the field that day is part of a learning and development process. And if we chose to see both teams in the light, how would it effect the way we watch a game?
What would we applaud? Would it matter which team we applaud or which player? Would our relationship with the parents and coach of the other team change?
One thing I’m extremely happy to say is that I’ve seen many instances where the other team has made a great play and our parents have applauded it. It might not be the norm, but it’s happened with consistency over time.
I would even put it that we would watch the game differently. Instead of mistakes and deficiencies standing out, we’d actively look for moments of excellent skill, decision-making and team play.
The mistakes and failures are the moments that can be used to grow. As a coach, that’s a key part of my job. The individual development of my players depends on my ability to address their play, highlighting when, where and why they had successes and showing them when, where and why breakdowns occurred and how they can do things differently in similar situations in the future.
There is one situation where I, as a coach, cannot effectively address the successes and use the failures for growth. That is when the context I’m watching the game in is for the result. If I’m concerned only with winning, I’m watching the game completely different. It’s really just about, ‘does that action get us closer to a win’. It has nothing to do with the development of the player.
Next time your son or daughter is playing, give it a try. Try watching the game to celebrate every single player on both teams. See them all as part of the same journey. I think it’ll give you a new perspective on youth soccer.