The recent aboitiz-CebuFA National Football Festival, organized by Cebu Football Association (CebuFA) and sponsored by Aboitiz Group Foundation (AGFI), has been a joy to watch ever since the parents tag along their kids, some of them as young as 5 years old, and bring them to Cebu City Sports Center for the games.
I have been involved into organizing youth football tournaments and I have experienced different lessons, both on and off the field. Let me share with you some of them.
Parents of young football players play a very important role in their kid’s development in sport. Consider the following story about a parent and his son as they experience game day.
BEFORE THE GAME. On the way to the tournament, the dad starts to ask: “What position is coach going to play you today? “Take some shots; you don’t have to pass to your teammates all the time. Be tough on your tackles.”
Few minutes later they arrived at the venue. Dad continues with his advise. “Don’t forget to ask the coach to put you at forward.”
GAME TIME. The game begins and the child is not on the starting line-up. Dad is uneasy and started to talk to himself. “This coach doesn’t know what he is doing! I’m sure he will not let my son play forward.”
Then the kid finally gets to play as a left defender. More negative self-talk, but this time becoming louder. “What is the coach doing? My son cannot even kick a ball using his left foot!”
As the game continues, an opposing player dribbles straight at the kid. Dad’s negative “coaching” comments begin such that his son can now hear them: “Come on ... get that ball ... tackle him!”.
The child falls on the ground as the opponent dribbles past him, straight to the goal and a score is made. Dad is disappointed! His comments are now getting very vocal. “Get up, what are you doing? Hey ref., he knocked him down, isn’t it a foul? This is unfair.”
The game ends and his son’s team loses 1-0.
AFTER THE GAME. Dad gets into the car and tells the son to hurry up and get in. The “interview” continues. “Did you not ask coach if you could play forward? He does not know coaching anyway.”
Once they get home, the kid goes up straight to his room and ... decides to quit playing football!
Some Friendly Advise: I am sure that we, as parents of young kids, have experienced some of this parental behavior. Here are some suggestions that might help us make a positive change in our kid’s development in the game.
BEFORE THE GAME. Let’s make affirmative comments to our kid like “I’m so excited to watch your game. Let’s have some fun.” Let us assist them in getting the proper nutrition before the game.
It is important for our athletes to be mentally ready for the game via “positive self-talk”. The trip going to the game is a good chance for this. Some athletes like to listen to music, others want to talk ... but let them start the talk if they want to. It is difficult for them to mentally prepare if we are the one talking with our questions and advices!
GAME TIME. Let us cheer on the players... including the opposing team. The kids are trying their best and what we say on the field affects them, whether we are their parents or not.
Let’s try not to coach our kids or the other athletes. In football, there are a lot of things to think about, dribbling, passing and shooting. Let them focus.
AFTER THE GAME. After every match, it is the time for mental and physical recovery. Parents and the coach should have encouraging words about their efforts in the game. These explanations are very helpful and mean a lot to our kids. Let us not scrutinize the game or our child’s performance in the match. It is the job of the coach.
And lastly, let us enjoy watching our kids play. It will be much less stressful on us parents and, certainly, on our athletes.
See you in our next tourney.
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