10 May Parents, Shut Up.
“Floss your teeth!”
Oh. My. Goodness.
Parents, shut up. In fact, back the heck off.
Look, I don’t want to get belligerent in my writing, but sometimes, a feisty call-to-action is needed. And this is only because I care about the development of youth athletes. I care about their confidence. I care about their self efficacy. I care about their autonomy.
I mean come on: I’ve seen kids quit the game because of their parents.
Don’t be that dad who ruins a D1 scholarship for their daughter because you berated her all the time.
Don’t be that mom that burns bridges at every travel club and blames coaches for her child’s lack of effort.
Get outta here, yo.
Of course, I understand the urge to instruct play-by-play to your child because you invest time and money into soccer, but want to know something that will melt your face off?
As much as you think you’re helping your kid with your game commentary, you’re not.
In fact, you’re making it WORSE.
I get I’m not a parent.
But before you utter the words, “you just don’t understand, Erica! You don’t have a child!!!!”…hear me out.
On a total side note: I’m lucky to have soccer parent clients, who are stellar and who do well with the kids I train.
Allow me to be a braggart: my clients are amazing. Clap it up for them.
But I’ve gotten to this point of an amazing parent and child roster because everyone “tries out” to train with me. Yes, ya’ll are being evaluated.
I don’t care if your kid is the best athlete out there, if I’m dealing with a parent who 1) disrespects my expertise 2) sits in on my sessions to critique their child or worst yet, 3) berates their child post-session, we’re done here.
Parents: the more trainers can pick and choose who they work with, the more you need to watch your behavior.
I’d be remiss not to mention:
Clubs are observing.
College coaches are observing.
Professional staffs are…well, actually, you won’t even make it to this point.
So, shut up.
Why else should parents shut up? Let’s dive in:
1. Cognitive overload.
Soccer is a game full of a thousand decisions, and sometimes, these all happen within a split second.
Do you think directing your kid will help? Are they paying attention to you?
Chances are, they’re not. They’re too busy trying to navigate their next move, or make a pass, or run off the ball, or make it out of a slide tackle alive.
Their brains are overloaded enough with the amount of actions they need to make in the game, let alone, being able to execute them with quality and without getting injured.
Alas, I won’t go into a discussion on the central nervous system and why over-activating it can cause athletes to make poor decisions or suffer freak injuries.
Just know this: shut up.
External stimuli, especially the stressful kind, needs to stop so they can flow creatively and freely on the pitch.
You don’t need to have a phD in psychology to know this.
2. You’re making them nervous.
Expounding off of my last point, even if your kid is not totally taking in what you’re saying, they’re still hearing a bunch of chitter chatter from the sideline.
You’re making them frantic.
You’re making them nervous.
You’re distracting them from enjoying themselves.
You’re also confusing them because they’re trying to hear what their coach is saying, while you shout a total opposite set of instructions.
3. They don’t learn autonomy.
Let me now transition from aggression to affection: thank you to my mom for being the best soccer parent out there. I didn’t play for the D3 U.S. National Team or anything…
Anyway, so what did she do when I was a munchkin athlete?
She shut up.
Of course, she still cared and was tremendously invested in my athletic development, encouraged me to strength train, gave me the courage to reach out to college coaches on my own, and filled me with empowering words. She always said to me, “Erica, I love watching you play.”
Can you imagine what this did for my confidence?
Oh, by the way: parents, don’t come to me saying your child needs more confidence, when you scrutinize them 24/7.
Get outta here.
Again, thank you mom, for sitting back and appreciating me frolicking around on the pitch with joy. You didn’t commentate. Didn’t instruct. Didn’t scold. Didn’t say a word.
And my dad?
Thank you for sitting in the stands away from the other parents and remaining silent.
Of course, when I scored, he cheered louder than a 13-year-old girl at a Taylor Swift concert, and took me to Chipotle afterwards. Thank you, dad.
Again, I turned out okay.
I mean, I didn’t play semi-pro, or abroad in Brazil, or break college records or anything either…
And I’d argue because of their “laissez-faire” soccer parenting, I learned autonomy in sports and real life:
I learned to practice on my own.
I learned to reach out to new club coaches.
I learned to juggle in my front yard for an hour a day.
I learned to own my development.
I learned to start a business.
I learned to pay my bills.
I learned to invest and save.
I learned to find my purpose.
I learned to focus on my health and strength.
I learned to hustle with my blog.
I learned to be an independent and strong woman.
Even nowadays, do you think my mom is barking at me to lift weights consistently, blog every day for five years, start an IRA fund, write over 500 articles, hire a web developer, invest in website plugins and systems, and write a 15,000-word eBook on top of all that?
I’m doing it all alone, baby. Only because I was taught independence and initiative by my parents through soccer.
So I repeat: parents, shut up.
You’ll be thankful when your child grows up confident in their ability to handle life.
But more importantly, you’ll be thankful when they’re totally independent and not living in your basement.