For some of our Clubs, the 2013 outdoor season will be their first opportunity to move “full speed ahead” with next steps in terms of the implementation of Long-Term Player Development (LTPD). Some Districts and Clubs are further along the path than others, but all should now be poised to make real progress based on the player development focus that will be so important in Ontario soccer going forward.
With the new season beginning, we want to share some simple but important messages for both parents and coaches!
Pre/Early Season Parent and Coach Reminders
- Ensure that your young soccer player has eaten and has had enough rest. Good, healthy fuel and plentiful sleep are important factors in leading a healthy, active lifestyle.
- Before games and practices ask your child if they have all their kit, a full water bottle and a healthy snack for afterwards. Start to teach them to be responsible for their own equipment, hydration and nutrition.
- Ask your coach about Long Term Player Development and how he/she is using the LTPD resources and principles to assist with his/her program.
- Support your child’s coach with praise and encouragement. Please don’t instruct players during practice or games. Leave instruction to the coaches.
- Praise effort and please don’t criticize mistakes. Mistakes are actually encouraged as they are a huge part of the learning process.
- Play with your child between games and practices to support and build upon the coaches’ instruction.
- Young children can be easily embarrassed by parents’ poor sideline behavior. Remember to be aware of the impact you make on your child’s experience. Emphasize good behavior and don’t over-celebrate goals.
- Be patient and supportive; highlight good play from both teams and all players.
- Young players should participate in other complimentary sports to Soccer. Swimming, gymnastics and ice hockey are great coordination sports for young athletes. By participating in a variety of sports and activities, better athletes will be produced and hopefully a lifelong love of sports will be developed.
- Pre-season meetings with parents are important to develop relationships and to set goals and objectives.
- Some objectives may be: for players to love the sport at least as much at the end of the season as at the beginning; to improve technical skills and tactical knowledge; to seek out opportunities to compete in meaningful situations; to ensure that your players want to return next season.
- The coaches’ philosophy should also be communicated and explained at the pre-season meeting.
- The pre-season is a good time to ask parents to volunteer for positions within the team. For example, carpooling, communication tree, maintaining attendance, taking positive “stats”.
- Ensure that you have enough soccer balls for every child in your program.
- Challenge your players during practice by creating and using well thought out stage-appropriate games and activities. Being challenged is fun and prevents boredom. But make sure that the challenge can realistically be met; otherwise the children will be unduly stressed and become frustrated. Once they meet the challenge be prepared to issue the next one.
- Standing in line at the supermarket or bank is no fun for adults, so standing in line for children at soccer practice is also no fun. Make sure all your players are active all the time.
- Scout out your practice or game area to make sure it is safe for the players. No rocks, holes etc.
- Do you have your practice planned in advance? Using a practice planning tool can be fun and it keeps you organized and focused when delivering your practice sessions.
- Create a stimulating learning environment where the atmosphere is one of creativity and fun.
- Small-sided games are best for teaching game understanding, creating independent thinking and encouraging decision-making in your young players. Using games with themes or conditions can highlight the techniques that you want performed.
- During practice and games be enthusiastic and have fun! Displaying your love for the game will send a strong, positive message to the players.
- Give players five truthful, specific praises for every specific, constructive criticism.
- Set process goals for your players that are challenging but realistic. An example may be “Elizabeth, in the today’s game can you make 10 forward passes to a teammate?” or “Juan, can you try and dribble past an opponent 7 times in the game today?” Celebrate with the players after the final whistle when they tell you how they met their own individual goals.
There are many other things that parents and coaches can do to make the summer season a special and memorable one. But the above are some basic ideas that can help to get things started, and ensure that the experience for all of our children will be healthy, fun and positive.
Remember: LTPD is for ALL players. Whether youngsters simply want to play for fun and fitness, or aspire to a future in the sport, this is where it begins. Coaches and parents set such an important tone—and example. Thank you, and have a wonderful and enjoyable summer season.
Chief Technical Officer