So you signed your child up for HappyFeet, what do you do now? What is your role? You may have searched online for how to be a good soccer parent, and found great articles such as Five Mistakes Soccer Parents Make with Their Players or Sideline Etiquette: 6 Tips to Make Youth Soccer Better for Parents and Players, but how does this apply to HappyFeet and children that are 2-6 years old.
There many things to consider when supporting your player during their HappyFeet session, here are our top 6 things to consider:
1.Have proper self expectations
Your player's success on the field starts with setting up yourself to be a good HappyFeet parent. Your player is young and this is not the time to bring out your competitiveness or passion for the game. There will be a time and place for this in their future. Right now, recognizing that they are preschoolers and the goal of HappyFeet is to have FUN and develop both soccer and life skills, is the most important thing.
When on the field, pay attention to what your player is learning so you can ask follow up questions and help them practice their new skills at home. Being able to show their families what they learned will give your HappyFeeter a great sense of pride. Always, spend your time on the field focused on your player and not comparing yourself or them to others. Stay positive by recognizing that each player is at their own developmental level, and look for your player’s individual successes.
2. Understand your players' developmental level and support them
All children that are 2 years old, are not at the same stage of development just like not all 5 years old are not at the same stage of development. Take a moment to observe your player's abilities, personality, previous experience, etc. and encourage and support them at their level not at the level of their peers.
Is your player shy? Perhaps come to the session early to allow them to get acclimated or encourage them to simply say “Hi” to the coach. Are they anxious about playing for the first time? Reassure them that you only want them to try and have fun, and if they need additional support help them on the field. Is your player on the younger end of the age group? Then recognize that some players may be older and at a higher developmental level, and this gives your player the opportunity to learn from them.
3. Motivate them to try new things and make mistakes
All children at this age are going to make mistakes and for most players they will be learning a lot of new things. This means they will be frustrated, nervous, and potentially self-conscious. They need their grown ups' support!
HappyFeet is designed to help players gain creativity through trying new things and become brave by making mistakes and learning from them. Hearing encouragement from their parents on the sidelines, will give them the support they need to keep trying and to not give up. As a HappyFeet parent, these are the moments to cheer for and to embrace as they will help your player gain confidence and develop skills both on and off the field.
4. Cheer for your player, not the score
At HappyFeet we don’t keep score during our scrimmages, because we want our players to develop self-confidence through having FUN, not winning games. We encourage our players to try new moves on the field, support their teammates, and overcome personal fears. As a HappyFeet parent, cheering for these moments will raise your child’s self-esteem more than cheering for a goal or a win.
On the sidelines, we love to see parents that cheer for their player, and don’t coach their player. Coaching from the sidelines, not only causes player anxiety but discourages creativity and bravery on the field. Cheering on all players, showing good sportsmanship, getting excited when your player does a new move or tries and makes a mistake, will model great leadership skills and help your player have FUN.
5. Encourage them before/after the game or session
On the way to HappyFeet help your player get excited about all the FUN they will have, and encourage them by making small personal goals. For example, if your player is more experienced, set a goal to try two new moves on the field, or if your player is shy/nervous, set a goal of simply going on the field or saying “Hi” to the coach. This will help your player get the most out of their experience and set them up for success!
After the session, talk about the positives! Your players, regardless of age, will already know where the mistakes are made and may feel like they let you down. Help them reflect on all the great things they learned and help them maximize their development, by asking positive questions. For example, What is something new that you learned? Can you show me the new move? Where did you go on your adventure? What was your favorite part? Always, end your conversation with one thing they did that made you proud! No matter how small, this will be the lasting impression from that day.
6. Have and encourage FUN
Keep in mind that no matter how the day goes, HappyFeet is a time for FUN! Make sure you and your player know that this is the most important goal! As long as they are smiling and having fun, you have helped them achieve this goal and the day was a success!
Your role as a HappyFeet parent is essential in the success and development of your player both on and off the field. Do not underestimate your ability to help your child develop a positive relationship with not only their HappyFeet experience, but all future social and sports experiences.