Check out the weekly blogs

Online education from US Youth Soccer

Clubhouse

Like our Facebook!

Check out the national tournament database

Sports Authority

Marketplace

Wilson Trophy Company

Olive Garden

Capri Sun

Mango

Nesquik - The Taste They'll Love

Scotts - Keep it Real

#ROADtoOK

Play Positive Banner

Print Page Share

Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on USYouthSoccer.org every Monday.  A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom". 

 

Not Easy to Say Goodbye

Susan Boyd

When kids first start playing soccer it’s all about friends and fun. Six-year-olds aren’t thinking about World Cups and professional teams. They may not even be able to name a single soccer player of note. But they love getting out on the field, screeching and running with their buddies. Eventually, they also enjoy the thrill of scoring a goal, high-fiving everyone, and then rushing to the sidelines for a treat after the game. There’s something pure and special about those early years in soccer when the only stress might be getting to the fields on time. Unfortunately, as kids grow so do their differences to the point that eventually friends have to make difficult choices between staying together or leaving. In some cases they have to say goodbye because friends have developed faster in skill or passion and move on to more intense teams, or our kids may be the ones moving on. In other cases, the decision to change teams is driven by finances. When it comes time to separate, no matter the reason, it can be traumatic. How do we decide as a family whether or not to make that break? And should we do it, how do we help our children cope with losing their friends?

The most common reasons for kids to leave a sport are boredom and developing a stronger interest in another activity. It should be an easy choice to quit under these circumstances both for kids and parents, but friendships complicate the break. There’s a strong tug to stay in a safe circle of peers where kids feel accepted. Although we might think this is primarily a female situation, the reality is that boys can feel just as insecure about leaving a circle of friends. Often, boys’ status is established in athletic terms, so even if they hate playing a sport they may be reluctant to give it up. We parents worry about peer pressure, but peer status can be just as powerful and therefore just as detrimental to a child’s development. Kids can make fun of kids who quit teams. This behavior can stem from their own feelings of abandonment from someone they thought was a loyal friend. As parents we need to let our children know that they can’t take a friend’s departure personally. It’s not meant to slight them or diminish the quality of their friendship. It can be difficult to accept that assessment, especially if they have played together for several years. And friendships do end when such a large chunk of children’s free time is spent away from each other.

Parents may also discourage their children from quitting a team due to the same powerful peer influences. They want their kids to be part of the “in-crowd.” I always urge parents to require that kids finish their commitments. Some wise coaches have stated that if you quit now you’ll quit things all your life. So parents should insist their kids finish a season. But if a child shifts focus and wants to try something different, then we shouldn’t stand in their way. Not all kids are meant to be athletes. Certainly kids should continue to participate in physical conditioning, but that may not be on an organized soccer team. Studies indicate that kids who feel comfortable pursuing their favorite interests ultimately have more confidence and self-esteem. While being part of the popular group can be satisfying, it’s less so when kids are ingratiating themselves into the mix. They can feel more like outsiders that way than when not in the troop. However, we also have to be sensitive to friendships.

The nature of growing up means that kids grow apart in interests and skills. But other factors intervene in disrupting friendships. Kids move often these days. My grandsons have lived in four different communities in two different states for the course of their sports life. They’ve had to reestablish themselves each time on teams and in situations where coaches already know and trust certain players. They gave up good friendships in those moves and lost some time when developing as players. However, they also learned patience and humility in those situations. Kids are resilient, so they do make new friends, but there can be pain as friendship dissolve. That can also happen when parents don’t have the means to keep their kids in expensive programs. Those are tough decisions for everyone involved. But ultimately the solvency of the family is worth more than the ego boost of being in a top program. I can name dozens of Robbie’s friends who went on to play college soccer without the benefit of being in expensive clubs. Bryce played in a Serbian club where the cost was only $150 a year plus whatever costs were associated with tournament travel. The club tried to go to tournaments within driving distance, but also that were college scouting tournaments. Writing letters to coaches and providing game film beforehand did entice a number of coaches to come check out games at these tournaments and five players on the team got offers. So parents shouldn’t feel that if their child has talent they are thwarting that talent by not putting their child on a top level club team. However, these decisions can mean that friendships get strained and even broken. Parents need to be ready to help facilitate the continuation of friendships if possible or sooth the loss of a friend.

The most painful way that friends can be separated is when one excels more than another. It’s difficult to be on either side of the equation. We expect that once kids get closer to high school age that they will face the dilemma of either being selected or not for their friends’ team. We hope they are better equipped to handle not only the possible disappointment of being rejected but the ensuing disconnect from long-term friends. However, more and more clubs decide to create powerhouse teams as early as age 10. If our children are among those being “recruited” there can be a great deal of resentment from other teammates and parents. And if our kids aren’t selected there’s disappointment intermingled with leaving friends. It’s a difficult quandary. While we want our kids to have the best opportunities if they are skilled enough to take them, we also recognize the inherent unfairness of the practice and the detriment to friendships. This is happening at an age when teams are supposed to be talent neutral until they could be selected at U-11. Robbie’s club decided to create a U-11 team from two U-9 teams that had a number of strong players. We parents were skeptical until we were assured that with the larger roster at U-11 no kid would be left behind. However, it didn’t happen that way. One boy and one boy only was left off the roster. We protested, but his parents were so hurt they decided to leave the club. These were supposed to be his friends, and now they had betrayed him. The episode casts an ugly light on a fact of youth sports – friendships can shift abruptly and unpleasantly. The longer kids stay in the sport the more this scenario will play out. Giving up the comfort of a community even if being promoted can be difficult.

The good news is that with social media it’s easier for kids to stay in touch and maintain friendships. Robbie regularly texts with his friends from various clubs. He only played a year at UC-Santa Barbara but he has strong friendships with teammates from there, returning periodically to California to visit with them. On Bryce’s recreation team, the players were classmates and neighbors, bonding strongly. However, one boy was not athletic at all and quickly fell behind. His mother was distraught because she saw the handwriting on the wall. She didn’t want him to be, as she considered it, ostracized by his lack of athleticism. But he was extremely artistic and she herself was an artist. Eventually she realized that he was happier in creative pursuits, and he even expressed to his mom that he didn’t like soccer. Leaving the team meant he did leave the group of players, but several of them continued their friendships with him because they shared other interests, attended school together, and met at the community pool in the summer. In fact, in middle school Bryce reconnected with him because they both loved making videos and spent one summer creating a film using several of the former teammates as actors.

Friendship can be fluid, but can also be an influencing condition for many kids and their parents. Sports teams are meant to create strong bonds among players, and those bonds may signify a social status as well. Therefore leaving a team for any reason becomes problematic when it comes to psychological impacts. If someone is cut from a team, there’s not only the loss of the companionship of teammates but the sense of failure and inadequacy. If kids move on to a higher level, they may feel the loss of the support system they had, guilt over leaving, and harbor a lack of confidence going into the new arena. As parents we need to be sensitive to how losing a team can affect our kids and be willing to listen to their concerns. We can also help them continue to foster those relationships by having kids over to share popcorn and a movie or just hang out. The parent network can be invaluable at times like this. Keeping in touch with the parents of old teammates allows us to facilitate the kids maintaining the friendship. Don’t forget old teammates when making the invitation list for a birthday or summer pool party. Letting kids express frustration without interjecting our opinion can be invaluable in diffusing bad feelings. Likewise we need to be open to them making other choices and not making popularity a deciding factor in how our kids move forward. Putting pressure on them to stay on a team for social reasons can thwart passions they should be expressing and they will undoubtedly eventually find their friends abandoning them anyway. They are young for such a short time, they should enjoy it with friends as long as possible.

Comments (0)

 

The 50/50 Blog: 5.11.15

Stickley

Virtual Reality Soccer

 

From the  Norwegian group that brought you bubble soccer... here is soccer from a bird's eye view.

 


 

Iceman with ice in the veins

 

 

Aron Johannsson played the hero for AZ Alkmaar on Sunday afternoon, netting a wonder-goal winner from nearly 40 yards with two minutes to play against Eredivisie guests NAC Breda.

 


 

USWNT vs Ireland in pictures

 

wnt moms

With a sellout crowd of 18,000 on hand at San Jose's Avaya Stadium that included the players' mothers, who had been flown in as a surprise the night before the game, the U.S. women's national team began its Women's World Cup send-off series with a 3-0 win over Ireland. See the images here.

5050_660x100

Comments (0)

 

The 50/50 Blog: 5.5.15

Stickley

The US Youth Soccer Show

 

Check out the May episode of the US Youth Soccer Show.
 


 

Be Smart with Social Media

 

682x422_Media_Wall_Social Media

Want to make a good impression with a college coach? Your social media presence is important. Read More

 


 

UEFA Champions League Semifinals

 

Champions-League

 

The UEFA Champions League semifinals kick off today with Juventus playing Real Madrid. Read more here.

 


 

2015 Women's World Cup

 

U.S. WNT roster full of US Youth Soccer alums

All 23 players named to the roster for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup have US Youth Soccer ties. Read More

 

5050_660x100

 

Comments (0)

 

It Takes a Village

Susan Boyd

We raise our kids within the confines of social, institutional and family discipline. Every day we turn over the shaping of our children’s moral compass and boundaries to teachers, coaches, clergy, police, neighbors, media, peers, and outside pundits in the field of child rearing. We can set limits, model behaviors, instruct, and demand, but kids ultimately have so many influences that they begin to pick and choose which ideas suit them best and will get them in the least amount of trouble. Peer pressure in particular, often fueled by media stimuli, can be a powerful arbiter of behavior. Parents have a difficult time getting our kids to understand and accept what we consider to be appropriate conduct when there are so many opposing forces out there. It may take a village to help raise our kids, but the village may also hinder how we want them to develop.

I grew up raised by everyone in our family circle. Aunts, uncles, grandparents never hesitated to put in their two cents’ worth, even right in front of my parents. Neighbors would freely give me a swat on the behind if I trampled in their garden or threw dirt at their kids, and they had no fear that my mother would report them to the police. Instead, she was grateful that they had handled it immediately. But we’ve moved from an acceptance of that type of discipline. In fact, if someone accuses our kids of something, all too often the knee-jerk reaction is “not my kid.” We’ve become apologists for behavior that used to be completely unacceptable because when our kids are bad, it reflects badly on us. I’m not in favor of corporal punishment, and I’m sure the psychological studies on how it affects our children’s self-image are true, but I also know that most of my peers grew up feeling the sting of a hand or spoon on our hind quarters and we still managed to become an innovative, confident generation.

Recently during the unrest in Baltimore a video went viral of a mother running out into the crowd of young rioters who were throwing bottles and rocks to drag her 16-year-old son back home, cuffing him several times around the ears. As she put it, “I didn’t raise him to be disrespectful to the police…and I didn’t want him to be another [victim].”  Her tiger mom response drew lots of opposing points of view equally divided between those who praised her for giving her son an important lesson and dragging him to safety and those who saw her attack as damaging and an inappropriate way to handle the situation. As I told my boys – I’d have done the same thing minus the slapping. They nodded knowingly. On the other hand, would she have wanted the village to intervene?  If her neighbor had seen the teen and gone to drag him back, would the mother have been thankful or angry?  It gets complicated.

When it comes to youth sports there’s an entire extra layer of discipline that’s added, sometimes not as we would hope. Coaches can forget that their charges are not adults, using the saltiest of language when motivating or chastising them. It’s uncomfortable for parents, who want to respect the authority of a coach to train, but want to protect their kids from influences they feel are improper. One time my 6-year-old grandson was playing a game on my phone. When he achieved a high score, he could input his name on a roster of winners. The game was a very innocent non-violent offering from Disney, so imagine my surprise when I saw the top scorers list where all the names were four letters long and not names at all. When I asked my grandson, he admitted with a sly grin to inputting the titles. I knew his parents didn’t swear, didn’t allow him to see anything with swearing (even bleeped out), and he went to a Catholic school. “Where did you learn these words?” fully expecting to find out he had some peers who used them. “My T-ball coach says them all the time.” How can a parent combat that? You can approach the coach, point out that his or her language makes your child uncomfortable, and hope things improve. If the reaction isn’t positive, then you can talk to the club president or board. Or you can use it as a teachable moment – explain to our children how limiting and disgusting such language is and let them know you don’t approve, especially if they should start repeating the words.

A more pressing problem would be if the coach gets abusive. Unfortunately, it happens all too often. Coaches can be very passionate people, but when that passion spills over to physically or verbally accosting kids, we need to step in. That type of behavior is not an acceptable response no matter the age, but particularly for our youngest players. One coach berated an 11-year-old player for five minutes as the reason the team lost the game, totally devastated the trembling boy. His parents were angry, but so were several of us. We took it upon ourselves to confront the coach so the parents didn’t have to. Therefore, the coach couldn’t rationalize that the parents had sour grapes motivating their complaint. Instead he had to listen to us parents who witnessed the attack and agreed it was cruel and unnecessary. That’s how the village can step up in a supportive and significant way. Even if our own children aren’t victims of an aggressive coach, we should be advocates for the kids who are. It’s difficult because we don’t want our intervention to affect our children’s role on a team. Coaches have a tremendous amount of power leading to intimidation, so if parents can join forces and come to the coach calmly and kindly, that intimidation is voided.

Taking the protection and/or discipline of other people’s children can be tricky. I can shift into “mom” mode when I see trouble. I took the cigarettes of three pre-teen boys sitting next to me at a Brewers’ game (when you could still smoke in the stadium) and told them I didn’t think their mother would approve. Maybe she would have, or maybe she would have resented me stepping in, but I felt I needed to at least give those kids pause the next time they lit up. I also wanted to go give whatever shopkeeper sold those kids the cigarettes a piece of my mind. The village is only as strong as its weakest members. On the flipside not everyone is on the same page when it comes to the standards we want for our children. Entrusting our children to others can be tricky. We don’t want to be handing out a list of expectations for the kids:  No candy, only G or PG movies, no swearing, no political discussions, etc. We can quickly get a reputation as being overprotective. Therefore, I think that as part of the village we need to check out with other parents if certain things are okay – we plan to go to a PG-13 movie; is that okay with you?  As much as we hate having our kids exposed to things we carefully avoid, we should be sensitive to what other parents want. It can be as simple as making sure team snacks have a peanut-free option, for example, and as significant as helping parents out with carpooling.

On the positive side, youth sports provide some excellent additional training. Kids learn how to cooperate, compromise, win and lose with dignity, avoid cheating, and other important moral lessons. Naturally, as they grow, more and more negative influences will seep into their experiences. These can then become teachable moments. Since my sons are minorities, they faced a fair amount of racial slurs during games. They learned that this was more a way to get into their heads than personal attacks, so eventually they could shut it out. It didn’t make it right that it happened, but it also gave them the resilience to learn which battles to fight. At one college game when Bryce was in goal, the opposing school’s students sat behind the net jeering and cat-calling. At one point they yelled out, not knowing it was true, “Bryce, you’re adopted” obviously believing this would be huge slap in the face. Since everyone on his team knew he was adopted, one defender turned around and shouted back to the students, “Yeah he is and his family is awesome,” while the entire team clapped. Apparently those young men had learned the lessons of support and rejecting intolerance, and I suspect some of the lessons were learned on the field. That’s a village in which I was delighted to be a resident.

Discipline is a personal process for every family. Yet we can’t control the vast majority of time our children require discipline. We have to count on a myriad of other disciplinarians. Usually we can trust those people to do the right thing; after all many of them have their own children whom they raised well. Of course, we’ve all experienced those times when parents don’t manage their own kids, leaving them to run wild in a restaurant, cause trouble at the pool, cry during a movie, and any number of other annoying situations. The question is do we intervene?  We’re part of the larger village, but we may not be a welcomed part. Likewise, we may not appreciate the behavior modeling and discipline of others within our village. Yet it’s difficult to reject someone’s intervention when it’s well-meaning. Even more difficult is figuring out if what another parent accuses our child of doing is valid or not. We don’t want to be so defensive that we miss the bigger picture – our children need to be accountable for their misdeeds. The good news is that youth sports adds a significant and powerful layer of modeling and oversight which is generally very positive in the development of our children’s ethical nature. We should all let it be known that we welcome the oversight of our children by others. Despite the eyes in the back of our heads we can’t see everything. We need to trust family, friends, neighbors, police, teachers, clergy, and strangers to help us out in keeping our children on the straight and narrow, not to mention safe. No village is perfect, but I’m grateful for their assistance.

Comments (0)

 
 
 
usyouthsoccer.org