By Tim Bradbury
Director of coaching, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association

For a variety of good reasons, I am approaching the new season with a feeling of hope.

Perhaps it’s the 86 C license candidates that I have been teaching or perhaps it’s the 36 on the recent D license in Central Islip N.Y. or even the combined 62 at Grass Roots courses help with East Meadow, Hewlett/Lawrence and South Fork United. Or perhaps it’s the combined idea that the numbers present that there are coaches keen to improve their craft.

If there is a common denominator with all the coaches above, it is that they GET the place of winning. They seem to know that the needs of the players must come first and that although the kids value competing, they value so much more before winning. Youth players value learning skills, being listened to and respected, being allowed to figure things out way more than they do winning. I would urge all parents and coaches to view the work of Dr Amanda Visek on fun maps:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4201634/

My hopes are further fueled when I see coaches employing the ideas and concepts taught on courses and the reaction of the players when they get to solve problems, think for themselves, help perfecting some skill and then encouraged to perform it in a stress-free atmosphere with a coach who gets those mistakes are simply learning moments. Far too often, players excel in practice and then struggle in games. Why is this the case? What changes?

The answer is a simple one, when game day comes around the competitive volume and the win-at-all-costs atmosphere simply takes over.

Youth players no longer feel free to try things and thinking for themselves, when 12 parents decide to scream on their idea of what the player should do. The more I think about parents or coaches dictating what the player on the ball should do, the more I am baffled. Unless you can magically scan and see what they see, somehow get full knowledge of how quickly they think, can physically move, their range of flexibility and the skill set at their disposal, how can you possibly tell them what to do? It really is the most perplexing part of being a soccer coach.

So, to keep my hope alive and to try and secure a season where hope turns into promise, let’s all work to make game day a day of fun, learning and, of course, competition. But a day which belongs to the players!