- Parents have the most contact time with players - use it wisely.
- All players want is your attention and appreciation. Let them make the decision's and play.
- You can create the environment for players to love the game and enjoy it in their own time.
Developing soccer players is the holy grail that every coach is working towards. As coaches, clubs and organisations work on player development models and sessions, they are continuously running up against a limited amount of contact time. There is a lot of discussion on whether 10,000 hours is the golden number and the type of practice that involves, but coaches can't come close to being there for all 10,000 hours.
There are those that have the ability to be around for those hours though. There are those that can facilitate and support young players as they practice, develop and continue on their playing journey. The people with the most contact time aren't the coaches, they're the parents.
Soccer begins in the home at the very youngest ages but will continue to do so much further along than when little Johnny is kicking a ball around in the living room for the first time. Parents are crucial to player development, the X factor that can make all the difference. They're there throughout the whole journey.
Parents are able to facilitate this magic and this relationship with the ball. Starting with little things like having the ball out and in plain sight at all times (out of sight, out of mind), and progressing to car rides to and from games or practice. These moments in the house, in the park, in the car are the contact time that coaches dream of - all those chances to reinforce the learning outcomes or encourage players to keep practicing and refine their technique. This is where the difference can be made if the approach is right. Parents are the X factor!
We've already established the level of influence parents have in terms of contact time with their child and their development. Soccer practice is only the start of development. Truthfully, it's all the work that go's in behind the scenes when your teammates and coaches aren't watching that will really push a player onwards and upwards.
Young players don't play for this reason though. They play to have fun. They play because they enjoy it. The challenges, the rewards, the competitiveness, making friends, scoring goals, impressing their parents.
Impressing their parents! Players play for that appreciation - did you see my goal, did you see that move, did you hear the coach tell me great job? Players want to hear that from their parents. They want that positive feedback. It gives them the incentive to keep working and keep progressing so that they can continue to receive that praise and appreciation. They want to show you what they can do. If you can be positive and keep encouraging their efforts and practice, this will continue to drive their practice and desire to practice both with their coach and without.
When players feel that parental appreciation and strive for that parental approval, they'll continue to work on things to show you. There are so many techniques and ways to manipulate the ball that there is always something else to try or master.
Encourage this, not only in the parental praise and appreciation mentioned but also in allowing players to play at any given opportunity. Leave a ball in each room in the house, keep it in plain sight, allow them to take it to school with them, take it to their friends house, use it in the bedroom - you don't need much space. It isn't a case of kicking the ball against a wall or shooting in the home. It's about manipulating the ball - pulling the ball back, moving it around your standing foot, using both feet. Allowing them to experiment and mess around with the ball will continue to give them that contact time and relationship with the ball that will benefit them drastically.
You don't need to live near a soccer field or have an abundance of space though, all they need is a ball at their feet.