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  • G. Sarakinis

A Soccer parent-Why parent education is so important?


About three weeks ago we had some visiting teams from North America in the Barcelona area. Two of my sons(2003, 2004) had the opportunity to play a game each vs their North American opponents.

In these parts where I live Catalan is the preferred choice for language and separating from Spain is always on the agenda here. Any group gathering usually includes some sort of Independence chants. English is also not very common in these parts so when we had these visiting teams from North America it was a good excuse to practice my English just in case I am forgetting it.

I quickly got in some conversations with visiting parents. Many had questions as to how we like it here, how is the soccer, how is the coaching, schools and many other questions about Catalonia and Spain and general. The conversation was good and I learned about the visitors as well, where they were from, what people did as a profession and how good their team was. I was taken back by the last comment. Perhaps they were good but just surprised how easy the last sentence rolled off their tongue. As we spoke I was watching both teams warm up and both teams warmed up similarly with passing, dynamic stretches, possession game etc. As we were approaching the start of the match the parents said to me, "Nice talking and meeting you, we will speak later again but we need to get into game mode." I just smiled but then thought to myself what the **** is game mode :). As the referee brought the captains in for the coin toss these parents went on the sidelines as if they were hired to work as assistant referees.

Typically in Catalonia, most mini stadiums provide seating for all the spectators and this stadium was no different but all the visiting parents lined up on the sidelines. I know from my time in Canada this often happened as well and usually an observant referee would move the parents back to provide some room between the side line and the parents. But there wasn't much room between the sideline and a wall. This was what they were used to so perhaps they didn't know which was ok but what happened next was surprising. As our team was in a team huddle getting ready to begin the match, the opposing team was just standing around quietly waiting and the parents were the ones yelling, "Let's go boys, we can do this, we didn't come here to lose, let's gooooooooo." It continued for a few minutes and many of their players would look at their parents. It was very easy and very quick for me to match the player with the parent.

So the game started and both teams were a bit nervous but it brought me back to Canada very fast. The famous call of "Send it" rang in my ears like a bad dream of the past and of I was not sure to whom they were supposed to "Send It" to as no player was in an advanced position. The "Send it" continued for the whole match, then there were some others of my all time favourites like, "Not down the middle", "kick it out", "Just give it a big boot" but the one that really took the cake was "What the hell are you guys doing?" It was quite evident that these parents were the helicopter parents you read about and that all of us have met. Needless to say it was 5-0 for us after about 8 minutes and it ended up 6-2. The parents were giving instructions the whole match, most of it was wrong, they were all zoned in on their kids and conversations were going back and forth with their kids during the game. I remember seeing it back home but I think it shocked me not seeing any of it here in Catalonia for the last 15 months. I am sure it does happen but think its more difficult with the set up of most stadiums require the parents to sit away from the pitch and especially with 7v7 games where usually parents sit behind a goal so most times are no where near their child.

The next day my younger son played their younger group and it was much of the same from their parents. The same instructions were being yelled out, constant dialogue between player and parent. Some scolding from parents to the child like don't embarrass me, we travelled all the way to Spain for this. This game was a complete disaster on the pitch for the other team. It ended 17-2, which really was a flattering score for the visitors in all honesty but it showed the huge gap between the two teams.

Now this brings me to the point of this article. Why we need parent education?

Many parents involved in the game today did not grow up in the sport, never played the sport and even those that may have, many changes have taken place over the last few years.

It is important for clubs to educate parents as it will help them understand how and why you are doing what you are doing?

So what does a club need to educate these parents?

1.Club Philosophy: There are many club philosophies out there but this has to reflect your club and what your club stands for. When outsiders think of your club what do you want your club to be known for? This philosophy should resonate throughout your players, parents, coaches and all involved in the club. Players should know what their club stands for and help build the culture and sense of belonging to the club. One of the most important aspects of this which is rarely touched upon is what can our club realistically offer? Can we do recreational, competitive, high performance, one of them or all of them? This requires a club to be honest with available resources and do what is best for their player, and finally do the best job they can with what they can offer.

2.Soccer Philosophy: Your soccer philosophy or "playing style"is how you want your teams to play the game. This style is often set by the TD and is a reflection of the TD and the club. Some clubs have certain playing formations, 3-2-1 for 7V7 and 4-3-3 for 11v11 for example. The most common "playing style" when you go through the web or hear coaches speak is a "possession based club." What does that mean? For the most part it means that the club wants to retain possession of the ball, build possession out of the back preferably, and keep the ball patiently looking for those scoring opportunities. This is a perfect philosophy and many clubs have this but are missing one thing that is vital to this. They don't have the technical plan in place for the players to accomplish this as most lack the required skills to play this way.

3.Coaching Philosophy: How many clubs have a coaching philosophy? How do we want our coaches to conduct themselves? What type of coach does the club want to represent them? This is very important that coaches in place are following what the club/TD have in place. What coaching standards do we want for our coaches, minimum levels required or a higher standard set out by the club? How do we want our coaches teaching? These are all important questions a club needs to answer to set their philosophy for their coaches.

4.Methodology/Curriculum: As mentioned earlier many clubs have many good things in place on paper but lack the technical plan to achieve those results. I like to break this down into 2 parts:

Methodology: "A set or system of methods", how are we going to teach our curriculum? This goes back to our Coaching Philosophy as well. Will we use Guided Discovery as a way to teach, by asking asking questions to have the players provide the solutions? Will you use the Command approach at times to drive home the message depending on their age? Will you try to limit stops in play and pick and choose the right times to make your coaching points. Again all valid points to set your coaching philosophy and how your coaches teach the game to the players.

Curriculum: When your children go to school, there is a curriculum for each grade. There are standards in place, tests throughout the year to monitor progress and a list of requirements that a child should know by the end of the year. Soccer should be no different. For most clubs the level of player varies on each team and its best to have a curriculum based on development stage and not necessarily age. The company that I work for MBP has a methodology that we export to grassroots clubs all the way to professional clubs. Perhaps I will write an article on this at a later date

MBP is a training methodology that is based primarily on cognitive aspect and how players understand the game of soccer. The methodology is not limited to the cognitive and includes coordinative, conditional, socio-affective, and emotional-volitional aspects of the game. Although an important scientific framework is used, empirical knowledge is the basis of our methodology, thereby ensuring connecting it with the 4 realities of the of soccer: the players, the team, the coach and the game. Ultimately, the MBP methodology is a way of understanding life through soccer and soccer as a way of life.

Methodology/Curriculum is vital to all the points above. Without this you have coaches teaching what they think is right and perhaps not developmentally correct or drawing up training plans with respect to their previous game and what was done poorly. The curriculum is needed to keep coaches and players one the same page as to what needs to be accomplished in the season. What concepts need to be learned at the appropriate development stage and what concepts need to be there to build on for the next development stage. Sound a bit like school? It does because it has to be that way.

So now that the club has all this in place, and the all do ;0, it is important for a club to educate the parents on what the soccer year(school year) will look like.

What a typical Parent Meeting should look like?

  • 1.Reiterate Club, Soccer, Coaching Philosophy and Code of Conduct for parents and players

  • 2.Explain the Methodology to the parents on how you will teach the curriculum

  • 3.Explain the curriculum by telling parents what development stage the team is in and what that means. Explain to parents what the concepts for the season will be. Explain how these concepts will be tested to determine where they are mid season and at the end of season

  • 4. Explain to parents how they themselves can help in their development. For example, provide training plans in advance to parents with the concept for training. Provide the guided discovery questions on the training plan so the parents can ask their children the questions as well.

The more the parent is involved and included, the more 'buy-in" you will have. The more information the better and at the same time you are educating the parent and the parent may be educating the player as well.

Some will say that no club does any of this. There are clubs that do this and are very progressive but for the most part they are right. This is where clubs need to do their part and create this structure. It does take time and in some case money but there needs to be a structured plan and resources put towards that. It may take years to get this accomplished but needs to be at the forefront. On the flip side parents need to do their research in selecting the proper development environment for their child. The moral to this story is not to have parents act like the ones I witnessed here in Barcelona 3 weeks ago!! You want them educated and there to support their child. It can be done and not easy but needs to be a priority to move our game forward!


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