Expectations for Parents – Game Environments

In this Breakaway clip from the latest SoccerParenting webinar, Game Environments and what parents can expect is discussed by Skye Eddy, Nick Levett and Pammie Sichangwa.


Nick Levett is the Head of Coaching for UK Coaching and holds his UEFA "A" License.  Nick also has a Masters in Education.  At UK Coaching, he helps to collaborate with organizations and pools their resources to make lasting improvements in coaching in the UK from grassroots through to elite performance levels.  UK Coaching informs government on policy that supports coaches, allowing them to have a more positive impact on society.

Pammie Sichangwa has coached youth soccer in North Texas for the last 10 years. Currently the Pre-Academy Director for Sting Soccer Club, she is responsible for a child's first impression with the sport.  She works closely with families to ensure a fun experience in which children fall in love with soccer and learn how to be confident, respectful, and to be great teammates.


Watch the Full Webinar here:

TRANSCRIPT:

Skye:
Let's move from the game environment and let's set some expectations for parents around what a game, or move from the practice environment and focus on what a game environment should look like. It's a Saturday morning. The team is playing. What do you play, Pammie, 4V4?

Pammie:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Skye:
Yeah. Is that what you do, Nick?

Nick:

The younger age groups, there's no format, but it will be 2V2, 3V3, and then on the seven, it starts at 5V5.

Skye:
Interesting. Okay. You have a game, get your chair, put it on the sidelines. Kids, go be with the coach. Everyone's in uniforms. There's no referees at this age, the coaches are doing the refereeing, but what should expectations be for a parent in these moments?

Pammie:
Enjoy. That's your kid's time to shine. They get to show you what they learned at practice and you get to be the proud parent clapping and enjoying watching your kiddo.

Skye:
What's it going to look like, I guess, is also what I was getting at. What should parents be expecting of the kids in front of them?

Pammie:
It should be a little bit of chaos. It should be a little bit of chaos. The kids in my age group are learning how to play in a shape. Are they always in that shape? Absolutely not. Are they fighting over the ball sometimes? Absolutely. Are we trying to give them ideas and guide them through what it might look like? Sure. But really, we're hoping that the kids are being creative, they're showing us their skills. They're going to goal. They're celebrating those goals. They're giving each other high fives. This should be a lot of fun. It doesn't need to be stressful ever at this age ever, ever.

Skye:
Yeah. Let's talk about how some kids might be in that environment and might have the ability to pick up the ball, dribble, literally taking somebody on and go to goal, and other kid are looking in the wrong direction. How do we address that as a parent when our child's the one that's looking in the wrong direction?

Nick:
I don't think any of the parents from my son's football team will watch this because the one that I'm ... I won't name him. I've got one kid, right? My son's team, Callum, they're a real mix. They have exactly that. They've got a couple of kids that are primarily development center that are quite good and a couple of kids that generally just look around, wonder, they join in every now and then. The ball can go right past them and they won't move. I had a conversation with a dad who said, "I need you to shout at my son more." I was like, "Okay, I'm intrigued to understand, why do you want me ... Firstly, I'm not going to do it, but why do you want me to do that?" "Well, because he doesn't look like he's engaged."

Nick:
He shouts in quite a lot, "But you need to keep him focused. He doesn't really understand." I said, "Look, he's seven. It's all right. They'll develop at different rates. It's not a problem at all." Then he said, "Yeah, but it's embarrassing, isn't it?" I was like, "Who is it embarrassing for? Is it because you now think he reflects your ability to be a parent, or actually are you embarrassed for your son? Because your son's fine. He's doing cartwheels, he always wander around. He'll kick it every few minutes, and he has a good time." Actually, it was more about the parent who was concerned with them feeling embarrassed by his son not joining in, rather than anything else.

Nick:
We just have to manage the parent's expectations about the kind of things that they will see and they won't see, but we have, it's not code of conduct, we talk about SLR with our parents and kids. We talk about safety, learning, respect, and the expectations that we have for the kids are the same for the parents on the side of the pitch. Our expectations on game day are that the parents chat and meet some new families, let the kids play. I'll sort the kids out, you just go meet some new families and just chat and spend money in the shop and whatever you want. But we'll look after the kids. They'll be fine.

Skye:
Yeah. I love that. Let's dive into this one child, or not obviously specifically him, because what I feel happens is that a lot of parents are feeling that stress because their child isn't performing at the best. They think, "Well, soccer must not be for them, so we won't play anymore." Because, let's talk about the possibility of what could happen for that child that you're referring to two years from now, what could be the case for him? Anything could be the case for him. It could just be that things haven't quite clicked for him yet. Or, he doesn't have that focus yet. Or, his brain really doesn't quite capture everything that's happening and all of a sudden something will.

Skye:
What's been your experiences, both of you all, with children like that over the age, just to talk specifically to those parents and coaches that might have a few of those children, that definitely have a few of those children on our team. What's been your experience with those players.

Pammie:
My biggest thing is, do they want to be here? Are they having fun? Is the kid enjoying soccer? Because that's really the point of them being there. If the kid is absolutely loving it and maybe more timid at games, but participates in practice and is saying, "Yeah, I do like soccer. I love being here." Sometimes I give that child a challenge and then I will distract the parent with saying, "I have challenged your child to try to touch the ball four times. I have challenged your child to try to keep the ball instead of kick it away. Maybe every time you see them do that, can we cheer like it's the biggest thing in the world?

Pammie:

Can we really celebrate that? Because that's what you and I are watching for your child." If you can get the parents to buy into that, then that's fantastic because you can watch that child grow, and it doesn't have to be compared to the other children on the team. It can be the growth of your child that you're watching. Now, you get something to watch and be proud of, that they are hitting those marks.

Skye:
I love that.

Nick:
I think you nailed it. The key thing is the progression and the development of that, their individual child, not compared to Henry and Sam who are really good. It is not a comparison thing, but I think some parents drift into that space. Is your kid better than he was a month ago? Does he still want to be there? Because if he keeps coming back or she keeps coming back, awesome. They want to keep doing it because they're having a great time. Do they come running through the gate because they're so desperate to come and play, because they know it's that much fun?

Nick:
If you're nailing them, happy days, but I definitely wouldn't get into that, and parents do it so easily. "Well, I start to rank the kids and I compare my son or daughter with someone else's son." Forget that, it's not about that. It's not about that. Are you helping them have a great time and get a little bit better? You know what? By the end of this year, if I can make sure every single kid can do their own laces, that's a win for me. If they can run a little bit quicker and if they're a bit more agile and they're a bit more confident, awesome.

Nick:
If they know that they can pass it to other kids as well, brilliant. If they understand their emotions a little bit more, cool. But I'm really not bothered whether one kid is now better than another kid. I couldn't care less.

Skye:
Yeah. Yeah