Dear Soccer Parents,
I feel for you.
The sports world is flooded with pressure, comparison, and chaos for your child.
Driving to tournaments. Practices. Emailing coaches. Investing time. Paying team dues. Driving two hours to away games in the middle of Virginia. Hitting up the Chik-Fil-A drive through post-games. Looking at your gas and food bills like “WTF?”
It’s all overwhelming, I know.
Being immersed in the youth sports world has its way of disorienting your lives.
It’s another full-time job on top of your current full-time jobs.
And sometimes, it’s easier to exclaim, “to hell with this!” and pull your children out of sports altogether.
I mean come on. Why would you want to accumulate more mileage on your car, endure the stress of college recruiting, see your child sit the bench, and chase down the head coach in the parking lot to discuss playing time?
I get you’re infuriated with the youth sports system.
How can you not be?
You see the coach’s daughter getting more playing time than your talented daughter.
You see clubs tossing around the catchphrase “player development” like it’s a sales pitch.
You see clubs spending more money on advertising than nice practice fields.
You see parents cheating their kids into college sports scholarships.
You see female coaches getting fired because they stand up for themselves and their values.
You see abusive coaches manipulating your child and you excuse them with, “oh, it’s just their personality.”
With all of these shenanigans going on, I’d be irked where my money is going, too.
And it’s immensely hard to stay focused on the development of your child when all of this noise is in the air.
But you know what?
You got this.
If you want your kid to get to the next level, you need to realize that none of this will be smooth sailing, and you’re going to have to enjoy the pursuit.
But. You need to establish clear boundaries and values.
So, none of this is to excuse problems like meager playing time, lack of exposure, abusive coaching, and poor practice quality. These are all valid issues, and I empathize with how you feel.
You need to decide what your kid values most.
Does your kid want to get exposure for college?
Does your kid want to play minutes?
Does your kid want to have fun?
Then, you need to decide what type of coach they value.
Do they want a stricter coach?
Do they want a nicer coach?
Do they want something in between?
Do they want to put up with an abusive coach?
And finally, they need to decide what environment they value.
Do they want a competitive, intense one?
Do they want one with explosive team chemistry and friendship?
Do they want a nonchalant, uncommitted one?
Do they want something in between?
Get really clear on these.
Because too often, a kid says they want to be pushed, yet the moment their coach gives them tough love, or corrects them, is the moment they get triggered and call them “mean.”
Welcome to coaching. Nice to have you!
Look. Not every team will be perfect. Not every club will be perfect. Not every coach will be perfect.
But what do kids value most? And what can they put up with?
Personally, I couldn’t stand abusive coaching. Nor, could I stand practices that weren’t intense and didn’t flow. Nor, could I stand missing out on the best college showcase tournaments.
And my parents and I got really honest with ourselves on these three big rocks.
For my mom and myself, it was worth the cost of the one hour drive to practices because I received quality training, coaching, and participated in the best showcase tournaments. Moreover, my coaches were uplifting, encouraging, and energizing.
Sure, the drive wasn’t ideal, but did I like my teammates? Yes. Did I feel empowered from my coaches? Yes. Did I love the high level of play? Absolutely. Did I ride the bench initially and have to fight hard for playing time? You bet.
But it was worth the process. In fact, the process aligned with my values: quality coaching, team, exposure and fun.
Things that were costs: long drive, had to work hard to get playing time. <— these were worth it and paid off.
So focus on values first because no team is perfect.
Too, some teams will put a check in boxes for a large percentage of these values, and you will be fine right there. Be grateful for these. And the moment something meager happens, or adversity arises, the world won’t end.
Be careful not to switch clubs just because everyone else is, or one itty bitty thing went wrong, or your kid gets bright-eyed with every offer they get.
If you’re happy, you’re happy.
Truthfully, I’d be skeptical nowadays if any team, club, or coach were perfect. If every team got along. If every coach made perfect decisions. If every player got equal playing time. If every club found the “holy grail” of player development.
Some are close.
But not many are perfect.
So as long as you accept this truth and figure out what you value, what your kid values, then you’re alright.
In fact, everything in life has a cost-to-benefit ratio. Career. Relationships. Marriage. Friendships. Sports. Academics.
As author Mark Manson says, “don’t hope for a life without problems. There’s no such thing. A good life is not a life without problems. A good life is a life with good problems.” <— Get his book HERE.
Teach your kids how to weigh what is important and to pick the problems that are worth it.
Oh, and don’t forget to express gratitude and have fun.
Those are important for your kids to learn, too.