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San Ramon FC soccer ball

3 Ways to Support Your Young Player's Development

By Dan Chamberlain, Executive Director, 04/04/19, 7:30PM PDT


As the son of a soccer coach, my son has a lot of advantages in sports, and I wanted to share some of those advantages with each of you so you can help your children on their path as well. 

There are three simple things you can do to assist in the development of your young player: 

  • Nurture your child’s joy for the game 
  • Encourage physical literacy by playing multiple sports 
  • Support character development inherent in a high-level activity 

As both a father and an extremely competitive person, I get it. I would do anything for my child to ensure he is successful. Often this leads me to be over-involved and “coaching” my son all the time, instead of letting him figure it out or just be a kid!

Soccer is a late specialization sport, meaning that often the best 8-year olds will not end up as the best 18-year olds.

Development in soccer is a marathon and it takes years and years of training to reach your full potential. In addition, development happens on different timelines, some kids race out ahead due to early physical development, while others lag behind waiting for their maturation to happen.

No matter what kind of experience you have in the game, no one can predict what an 8, 10 or even 14-year-old will be when he or she is 18 years old. 

So what are we as parents to do?

How do we support our kids while not being over-involved and pounding the joy out of the game?

Or even worse make the game and the results about us? 

Remember that the process is more important than results.

Results are data points along the path of development and the earlier you are in the process (i.e. the younger your kids are) the less they mean.

In 10 years no child will remember the score of last Saturday’s game or where they finished in the league this spring.

However, each of them will remember how their soccer experience felt, as well as be impacted by the lessons they learned through the game.  

Here are three simple things you can do to support your child’s development in the game, and most importantly help improve their experience and how they feel about the game. 

Nurture your child’s joy for the game.  

The development of a soccer player takes a long time, and there will be a lot of frustrating times for each player along the way. What gets them through that and helps them keep going is a passion and joy for the game. Foster this passion and joy by being a part of their soccer experience. Play with them in the back yard, watch games on TV or go to live games. The important part of this is to develop an environment with zero pressure. When you play don’t make it about development... make it about fun! When you go to or watch games, don’t make it about learning make it about having a great experience that they will want to repeat. This is a marathon, perfecting that one move in the backyard, or counting how many times a pro player checks their shoulder is not going to make or break them, but fostering and developing their joy for the sport just might. 

Encourage their physical development by playing multiple sports.  

The research is clear. Kids who play multiple sports develop more physical literacy (they are better all-around athletes) and stick with sports longer. Early specialization is a route to burnout and physical injury. While it is tempting to try to get those 10,000 hours in as soon as possible, repetitive types of movements limit children’s physical literacy (psycho-motricity, coordination, agility, etc.), cause overuse injuries and lead to burnout.  Kids need a variety of movements to develop and a need break from soccer. Basketball, Baseball, Gymnastics, Tennis and many other sports are great options.  

Support the character development inherent in a high-level activity.  

Children play sports not to become a pro or get a college scholarship, but because it is fun. We as parents encourage them to play sports because it is great physical activity, but more importantly, sports are a vehicle for character development. 

Sport provides consistent opportunities to learn about overcoming adversity, and perhaps, more importantly, gives us a chance to learn to fail with grace.

Remember, the chances of your child playing in the pros and making a living by playing sport is slim to none. But what they learn from their time at San Ramon FC will likely impact them for the rest of their life. 

Choose to support the character development by encouraging them to confront problems head-on, not clearing the path for them, and teaching them how to act when they fail. 

I believe wholeheartedly in the value of sport in our lives and in our culture, and the positive impacts that it can have on our kids and our community. If you are interested in learning more about some of these topics I post about frequently on my Twitter (@golkpr30) and LinkedIn. Give me a follow and feel free to engage with me if you have any thoughts or resources.