When parents pipe down children hit the right notes

By Jason Silva

am 40 years old and have been coaching since I was 30, and playing since I was 4. When I decided to get my F License and coach, I knew that I was going to enjoy teaching young players the game I knew and loved to play. I continually educate myself, either through our state office or through other outlets like online or in-person seminars and diploma courses.

Through all my years, what concerns me most, are the sounds from the sideline. Sounds like: “Kick it!” … “Come on!” … “What are you doing?”… “I told you mark up!” … and the oh-so-horrible ... “Wait till we get in the car!” with that frustrated inflection.

I hear some good coaching from the coach and even over-coaching (which I am guilty of myself), and the famous joystick coaching where the coach or parent instructs the child on their every move as if they were controlling a video game joystick. They all mean well, but it's obviously not very positive for a young athlete.

However, one of the best sidelines I’ve ever been a part of, and learned the most from, was when I attended my daughter’s band concert. Let me paint the picture for you.

When my daughter entered 4th grade (9 years old) she decided to play the clarinet. Each night she would come home from school and practice before and after soccer practice. She was determined to master this instrument and learn all the music for the winter band concert.

Our household would suffer through “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Happy Birthday” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” -- over and over. After awhile, she progressed to songs like “Ode to Joy.” She worked on these until she played them perfectly, completely in tune and not a missing note, or a single “squeak” or “squawk.” She was ready!

The day of the band concert came. She was nervous and excited at the same time, and we could feel her jitters too. She was all dressed, clarinet packed and mom even secretly bought her flowers for afterward!

We arrived at the school, got her to the meeting room, and scurried off to the auditorium. The curtain opened, the band teacher talked for a minute about their hard work and dedication and the music started. At this point every single person with a phone in the auditorium had it raised up, recording, and were completely silent.

The band was in tune, perfect cadence, and in sync; it was the best Mary Had a Little Lamb I ever heard! Then it happened, “squeak” and they continued, “squawk,” then it ended. Whew! Crisis averted. They started the next song, and with the occasional missed note or “squeak,” but still, the audience was silent.

Then it hit me: What would this auditorium sound like if it were outside – parents watching a youth soccer game?

Just like the band members, the soccer players practice hard all week. Game day comes and they are nervous and ready. Their shoes are tied, bags packed with extra shirt and water bottle, they’re ready! The spectators find the best seat, get out their phones to video this great performance. …

And then, there is yelling! If it was at the band recital it would sound something like this; “No Johnny! C, not C Sharp!” … “Stay in sync with the rest of the band!" … “How could you play that note!” … “Wait till we get in the car!”

I leave you with this thought: What are the differences between the concert and the game?

How is a coach different than a bandleader? I would argue that both are qualified to lead the children in the talent they have been teaching them; children look to their leaders to guide them, and would be distracted by disruptive voices calling out what they should be doing. I would encourage you to release your child to the game, sit back and enjoy everything that they do -- whether it’s what you want to see or not.

After the game, please don’t go through a blow by blow of everything you saw. Instead, love them, and in the car ride home talk about anything else but the game. Because the only words they should hear is how much you love watching them play!

(Jason Silva coaches at Point Pleasant SC in New Jersey and is a club vice president. He was named New Jersey Youth Soccer Recreational Coach of the Year in 2012 and has a U.S. Youth Soccer National Youth License.)

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