How to be a good soccer dad?

What a good soccer dad will tell the other soccer dads?

Whenever a fellow coach comes to complain about behavior by a parent, I remind them that, although not on the roster, the parents are part of the team. It’s the players, the parents, and the coaches that form the winning triangle. The coaches spend around 5 hours with the players each week, while the parents spend double and tripple digits, so if the link between the parent and the coach, or the link between the parents and the player is broken, then there is no quality bond between the player and the coach that will fix that. This is the advice I give to a parent on how to be a good soccer dad even before they join the team.

Don’t coach over the coach

…in public. You might know soccer better than the coach, but you don’t want to put the player in a position to take sides. One of my coaches’ sons plays on a different team in the club, and while his father is very vocal as a coach, he is peculiarly silent when his son is playing and he is watching from the sidelines. In fact, the does that on purpose, to make sure that his son doesn’t feel the extra pressure (some of which he already does) from his father being a coach in the club.

Should you coach in private? It’s your call, but very young players already understand the dynamics of public discourse vs. private conversation, and you don’t want the player to carry that burden. If you really have a passion for coaching, you can always join as an assistant coach for your kid’s team or even be the head coach. But if you are neither, then just be the soccer parent.

Don’t complain

…about playing time or position. I am sure you came to see your kid play more and score all the goals of the game for both teams, but the playing time and the playing positions are not the sources of the problem. Usually, it’s one of these issues – your kid behaves badly at practice or is playing too badly in a tight game, or is too good to play in a game that is already won (other kids need playing time). Whichever it is, talk to the player first to understand why they think there is a problem, then talk to the coach outside of the game and ask questions on how to fix this. I have never seen a good outcome of a conversation that starts with “You should play him/her as a striker, not as a right back; another coach told me he can score many goals”.

Avoid being overly critical

…of the outcome: In the book, The Talent Code, they show an example of one of the greatest coaches of all time, John Wooden, where he coaches with very little encouragement or discouragement (less than 7% each) and most of it is informational. I have rarely seen a player that doesn’t know when they have done something right and when they have done something wrong, so being critical of the outcome and not the effort is rarely fruitful.

Be a good sport

Soccer is a game, and it’s important to remember that. Encourage good sportsmanship and fair play, and teach your child to respect their opponents and the referees. The last thing you want is for your kid to be thinking about how you might behave instead of how they play. If they want to play soccer, they will have a competitive spirit that will tempt them to bend the rules and even push themselves beyond something that is good sportsmanship. It is your job to prevent harm and injuries, not be the reason for them.

Partner with another good soccer dad

In the lower leagues, I often see parents come to the bench and usually dads just hanging out, trying to look helpful. More often than not, they are not, because players don’t need them. If you are needed, you will be called. Instead, ask your daughter/son who they think is a good soccer dad and just hang out with them. Your children will thank you for that.

Enjoy the experience

Youth soccer is about more than just winning games. It’s an opportunity for your child to develop important life skills, make friends, and have fun. As a soccer dad, try to enjoy the experience and celebrate your child’s achievements along the way. I have seen some incredible stories where parents who met on the sidelines ended up having business relationships afterward – one case was when one mother was a recruiter for a big corporation and another father was the work profile she was working for. Another case was when one family decided to hire another father to remodel their home. I also cannot keep track of all the get-togethers my players’ families have had in the past because of their kids’ friendships.