By Randy Vogt
Director of public relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association

I’ve been involved with sports my entire life and quickly realized as a kid that only one team can win the game but both teams should be having fun. This was just as true today as when I was a boy in the 1960’s. With soccer, I was a player, briefly a coach, a referee, administrator and sometimes a spectator.

Yet, this is not as apparent to some of the adults in youth sports who place winning and perhaps that elusive college scholarship above fun and fundamentals. And that’s why so many of the players in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association quit the sport as they find better things to do than being yelled at by their parents and/or coaches.

After all, if your son or daughter was a musician and hit a wrong note during a recital, you would not yell at the child. And if you did, that would be embarrassing. Then why is the constant yelling that I hear from the touchlines while refereeing youth soccer games not embarrassing behavior? And the constant instruction should stop as well as let the kids make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes.

Additionally, we have many talented local players who play very tight the more important the game is and struggle to put a few passes together. Because they have been constantly told how important the match is. After two highly-ranked teams both played a relatively poor match on a weekday night, I heard a coach say to his players, “We have two important games this weekend with six points up for grabs.”

Instead of emphasizing winning, throw the balls on the field and let the kids have fun. They will play much better and the games will be fun for everyone – players, coaches, refs and spectators – when that is the goal instead of winning.

Many coaches do this and one who stands out in particular had his team playing in the Long Island Futsal League last winter to prepare for the spring season. They knew that they’d often be overmatched and they were but opposing teams kept the scores from becoming a rout by switching their players’ positions.

The overmatched team also struggled at times to put a few passes together but not because they were tight as they were having a lot of fun. When the season concluded, their cheering parents took a team photo in front of a net. I think that squad is going to be around for years to come.