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If you’d like your kids to play soccer, don’t force them to do it!

This is the basic mistake that is made with 50% of the kids who play soccer, and leads them to quit before they reach their 14th birthday!

If you honestly analyze the composition of your youth team, besides a few rare exceptions, you’ll see that half of them do the practice exercises, just because they HAVE too, not because they enjoy it.

And this, has nothing to do with the way you handle the practices. You could be the best in the world in making it interesting, making it fun, being the most patient person and super qualified for handling the youths that are there. Half of them didn’t choose to be there. If not half, minimum a third.

2 kids can have fun by shooting hops in the back yard. Throwing the ball to the basket and challenging each other is very fun. But the simple fact that they ‘play’ hoops, doesn’t make them basketball players. They just ‘play’ basketball. And the same is true if they play catch in 2 or with their father or mother. They ’play’ baseball, but they are not baseball players. They just have fun and that is great, because no one corrects them or gives instructions or tries in anyway to make them better.

This is great and probably, in the future, some of them will become real basketball and baseball players.

This concept, the fact that playing a sport could be done spontaneously, in pairs, in front of the garage door or in the back yard, strangely disappears when it comes to soccer. What was so fun to do spontaneously in just two, INCOMPREHENSIBLY can’t be done with a soccer ball!

So, to play soccer in the way that I underlined above, suddenly the same kids have to be divided into teams, wearing soccer uniforms, soccer shoes, shin guards, have referees, chalk lines, coaches, general managers, standings, play-offs and tournaments! A lot of them! And to do that, they sit in the car for hours going back and forth for games that are 50 miles away!

Where has the fun gone?

So, there is no way to let them PLAY SOCCER, WITHOUT BECOMING (APPARENTLY) SOCCER PLAYERS! And, as if this weren’t already bad enough, many of them can’t become soccer players, because they are not born to be that!

Everyone can play soccer in the back yard, in the parks or at the beaches, but just a few can become soccer players and play soccer on an organized team! Like only a few can become basketball, baseball, football or volleyball players. There is nothing wrong with this because it’s connected to talent, predisposition, desire, dedication, determination and discipline to become that! Not everyone has these characteristics and the great part is that, they…………………………… DON’T HAVE TO!!!

It’s absolutely normal not to have these characteristics. They will be good in other fields, not necessarily sports fields! And, in real life, those other fields, are much more important than soccer fields!

The problem is that parents, who clearly understand that shooting hops in the back yard, or just playing catch, doesn’t make their sons and daughters basketball or baseball players, INCOMPREHENSIBLY, they believe that their sons and daughters ARE soccer players, just because they play soccer. So, instead of letting them play in pairs in the back yards, in the parks or on the beaches, even 4v4 but in an ‘informal’ way in pick up and spontaneous soccer games, they dress them as a soccer players, divide them into teams and leagues, give them coaches, assistant coaches, managers and drive them miles away to ‘play’ soccer on a real soccer field with chalk lines and goals, and practicing 2 times a week, to do something that they hate to do!

Why does this happen only in soccer?

There are many reasons, but the most important is that 90% of the parents, who in 99% of the cases will become their coaches, have never played soccer so, they don’t know that there is another way to ‘play’ soccer.

It seems that they are unable to make the connection with the way their kids ‘play’ basketball and baseball! For them, playing soccer is only on a soccer field with 2 practices a week!

They start from the assumption that, because all the others do that, it’s supposed that that is right!

So, dear parents, force yourself to understand that this is deeply WRONG!!!
All the kids have the right to have fun while ‘playing‘ soccer. But in THEIR way not YOUR way!

Have you ever thought about why, at 14, they will quit soccer? Because after 4 or 6 years in which they have worn the soccer uniforms, without realizing that that was just a costume, they will collide with the REAL youth soccer players at High School! At this point, without knowing what’s happening, they will participate in try-outs, believing to be soccer players and they will be inexorably……………………………… CUT!!!!!

This, to be cut in this unfair way, could be one of the most traumatic experiences in their lives because, suddenly, someone will tell them that they are not good enough, even if they were ‘good‘ enough in the last few years!

Suddenly, even without using words, it will be told to them that they don’t deserve to have fun anymore!

What a horrible mistake was made 4 or 6 years before.

To avoid this, there is only one solution: GO BACK TO THE RIGHT WAY OF DOING THINGS!

Bring your sons and daughters, to the parks and beaches, and permit them to play spontaneously, doing something that is really fun, like shooting hoops in front of the garage or playing catch in two.


This is something that they can do for many hours a day, for the rest of their lives, without frustrations or traumas.

In doing this, through the years, the more talented players will play on organized teams, but all the others will not be cut. They will continue playing soccer spontaneously and having a lot of fun. And when the soccer teams of their high schools play, they will go to the field and cheer for their soccer player friends. They will enjoy this very much and will never have the horrible sensation of having been cut. There are simply others that play better than them and were chosen to do that. But after the games, they can always go back to the park or to the beach and play with their friends, without creating barriers that surely will be there after having been cut from the school teams.

And, talking about frustrations, I don’t want to deeply enter into the main problem that usually creates the wrong attitude from the beginning. That problem, is the frustration of parents (fortunately not all) who could never, ever, even consider the eventuality that their sons and daughters can’t make the high school teams!

That is the real problem and, unfortunately, aside from the one I proposed above, I don’t have other solutions. No one has it, until the time machine is invented! That day, going back 4 or 5 years, maybe a solution could be found but I really doubt it, anyway!

Coach Gianni

Posted on 01 Aug 2007 by coachgianni
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