Parent Education

May 2019



If you ask any player at any age the top three things they want out of the game, FUN will always be on the list.  If you ask any coach, of any level, their top priority and main objective when planning and running a session, they will ultimately say ” I want them all having FUN.”  For many years we have all insisted it has to be fun.  We have argued and debated about what fun is.  Perhaps one of the most crucial pieces of research that has been done on youth sports in recent years is the report "The FUN MAPS: A Youth Sport Scientific Breakthrough”  by Amanda J. Visek, Ph.D., CC-AASP & Heather M. Manning, M.S.  The George Washington University, Milken Institute School of Public Health, Department of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences
The read is quite a deep one and often the language used is a little scientific. That being said, if you have the time and inclination it is a vital read for any youth coach. In broad strokes the report informs us of many key points.  There are many FUN determinants.  In fact in the final analysis, there are 81 things that make sports fun for youth players.  All 81 can be broken down into the 11 broad categories noted below:
a.  games
c.  learning and improving
d.  practice 
e.  trying hard
f.   mental bonuses 
g.  being a good sport
h.  team rituals 
i.  swag & gear
j.  game time support
k.  positive coaching
I believe that if you have enthusiastic coaches who have spent time being educated in teaching youth soccer as the sport and learning theories have evolved; they would eventually hit all 11.  Successfully prioritizing the list to see what players value most, may be difficult.  “To start your tour, begin at Being a Good Sport. Next stop? Trying Hard. Final destination? Positive Coaching. These three fun factors are of greatest importance when it comes to making sports fun for kids and as such tower above other factors of minimal importance, such as Team Rituals and Swag.”  Amanda J. Visek, Ph.D., CC-AASP & Heather M. Manning, M.S.
When you delve a little deeper into the fun map research, you discover that the cluster noted in A-K above when placed in order of importance looks like this:
  1. positive team dynamics  
  2. trying hard 
  3.  positive coaching  
  4. learning and improving  
  5. game time support  
  6. games  
  7. practices  
  8. team friendships 
  9. mental bonuses  
  10. team rituals  
  11. swag  
When you look even deeper into the research, it shows that the three specific determinants listed below are considered most important for trying your best when a coach treats you with respect being supported by teammates. In a youth soccer landscape where player attrition rates continue to be alarmingly high, both coaches and parents (make it the topic of your next parent conversation) should pay a good deal of attention to the “FUN MAP” study. For coaches and parents brave enough to embrace the idea of change, it is essential. If we can truly get to the bottom of why youth players enjoy the sport, we perhaps have a good chance of giving them what they want.

April 2019



All the research on player development and coach/player relationships states the same simple truth. Players give more to teams and coaches when they know that the coach cares about them as people and not just athletes. This discovery has led to many coaches taking a more holistic approach than they have done in the past.  As part of this shift in emphasis, documents entitled “Key Qualities of” are being presented.

The idea is really a very simple one. You consider the role of a youth soccer coach and consider all of the key qualities that you believe they must have in order to be successful in fulfilling their duties. 

To break down this example from a parent perspective, most soccer parents would list the following as the vital key qualities of a youth soccer coach:

  1. Able to make learning the game fun.
  2. Able to clearly communicate with players.
  3. Have a deep knowledge of the game and it’s techniques and tactics.
  4. Display a desire to constantly improve as a teacher.
  5. Have some ability to demonstrate skills of the game.
  6. Be inspirational and dynamic.
  7. Be patient and understanding.
  8. Have the emotional fortitude to handle losses and wins without drama.
  9. View their players as human beings and not little professional players.
  10. Have some understanding of the basic psychology of their players.
  11. Have some rudimentary understanding of sports science (stretching, rest,) as it pertains to their players.

These documents really are a great learning tool for anyone who has the time for careful self-reflection and is willing to look at their performance through a critical lens. They help you identify areas of strength and weakness and can bring into acute focus those areas in which we most need to improve.

For a player to fulfill their soccer potential, it is essential that all 3 groups: coach, parent and player are actively seeking to help and improve within the roles they fill. 

I invite all soccer parents reading this to complete the key qualities assessment below. In doing so I would ask that you avoid the opportunity for self-applause and instead approach the task with a view of what can I learn about myself? Give yourself a quiet moment with no phone, PC, tablet or TV to distract you and perhaps complete with a vision of how the ideal soccer parent would behave. Compare yourselves to the highest ideal and be completely honest. 

Key Qualities of a Soccer Parent 

How are you performing as soccer parent? To get a sense of where you stand, please assess yourself on the following questions.

5 = strength

1 = are in need of development

Describe in less than two sentences why you scored yourself as you did. 


Questions 1 2 3 4 5
Do you have an appreciation of the learning process and recognize that skill development is more important than winning? ( 5 is learning is your priority)
Do you have a good sense of sporting behavior and are likely to applaud skill and talent in both teams?
Do you teach your child that their best effort is all that matters and not the result of the game?
Do you attempt to search for new knowledge on the sports your child plays?
After observing any game or practice are you able to offer unconditional loving support or are you more likely to start your critical review?
Do you demonstrate role model behavior under all circumstances? (5 is always)
Do you shout orders and instructions at your child as they attempt to play the game? (5 is never)
How are you doing in teaching your child to handle the disappointment of defeat and the joy of success in a suitable manner?
Do you work to ensure that your child meets the commitments of the team or frequently help create excuses as to why they simply cannot make it?
Do you promote and value the concept of sport for life before winning?
Do you address problems with your child's team (playing time as example) in a calm and open minded reasonable manner?
Do you respect all players, parents, refs and coaches within the team environment?






Hopefully you completed the exercise and have taken another step to doing all that you can to be a supportive and helpful parent. Now consider what other steps you can take in an attempt to ensure your child enjoys a lifetime of healthy sport participation.

Please share this document with all the team parents on your son/daughter’s team.  Together we can create the tipping point that is so desperately needed.

March 2019



We can all start to get excited the winter is hopefully coming to a close and the start of the season is just around the next sunny morning. Hopefully, like myself, all of you, coaches, players, and parents are excited for the season to begin.

Each season brings with it a new beginning, a chance for all coaches and parents to remember that learning is a process, that skill development and fun must be the foundation of the formative years ( consider (7-15) and while players and teams will always compete they may not always win. 

I ask all the adults reading this to reflect upon skill set you have mastered or course you have taken. You did not turn up on day 1, take the final test after 4 hours and learn the skills or facts in a day. NO. It was a process, you studied, tried to learn, worked on applying what you had learned, probably made some mistakes along the way UNTIL AT THE END OF THE JOURNEY you had mastered the craft. 

When you learned to drive it was the same process. None of you were tested on day 1 with a car full of passengers screaming at you to look in the mirror, apply the brake, switch on the indicator and STOP NOW! Imagine if you can, that you were forced to take the test day 1 and pressured in the way described. Do you think that you would have passed the test or enjoyed the learning process?

I get it we live in the land of fast food and we want it now! People keep telling me this when they want to somehow dismiss the learning process and defend the win at all costs and win every game, from 5 years and up, the attitude that is destroying youth sports today. 

I am optimistic, you have to be at the start of a season and a new beginning. In my experience, if we can all remember that learning takes time and that it needs the right environment in which fun must come first for growth to truly prosper it will become part of our SUSA culture.

As we head towards the first league games I ask every parent and to try to do the following this season:

  1. Remember learning takes time and is best achieved in a stress-free environment.
  2. Praise skills performed and ideas tried.
  3. Do not stress about winning, the tougher the games the more they will learn.
  4. Enjoy watching your child as they grow through the developmental process and become a little more “skilled” as the season progresses.
  5. View mistakes as learning moments and opportunities to develop

We must spend time teaching our youngsters to play before we fixate on the issue of winning. Learning to play is a vital step in learning to win.