The Rift (Part three of three)

by Tony Earp, Senior Director of Programming SuperKick/TeamZone

Measuring Success
The success of a team or a player is normally measured by wins and losses. This is a very misleading way to measure whether a coach is doing a good job, a team is having success, or if the players are learning and improving their level of play. For example, a team can be having a very good season, but the individual players have not improved much from the beginning of the year. Another team could be struggling to win games, but the players individually have made tremendous strides in their individual skills and ability with the ball.

The success of a team or a player is determined by a lot of different things that need to be outlined by the coach to the parents before the season begins. These areas of measurement should be different for teams and players of various ages and competitive levels. In short, measuring success for a U8 team is very different than a U16 team. Unfortunately, it is common for adults to use the same barometer (wins/losses) for both age groups.

The areas of measuring success for a team and the players need to be addressed by the coach with the parents before the season. The coach must explain what parents should be looking for throughout the season, and the parents ought to have the opportunity to ask questions and be part of the discussion for determining how success will be measured. This will help set the expectations for the team and players for the entire year. This will also affect how a coach approaches training and games in regards to focus of the training sessions, playing time, moving positions, and other coaching decisions. If the coach’s actions correlate positively with how the coach and parents are measuring success of the team and players for the season, there should fewer issues.

Mistakes
Mistakes will be made by coaches and parents over the course of the year. Every coach has games, practices, and conversations with parents or players they wish they could do over again. Parents make decisions for their kids or comments they probably wish they could take back. In the end, no one is perfect, so to go into a season thinking no one will ever make a bad decision is unrealistic. With that in mind, it is important for coaches and parents to recognize when mistakes are made and acknowledge them. Then, an effort needs to be made to correct the mistake.

For example, I was coaching a U12 girl’s game and I completely mismanaged the playing time for a couple of players on the team. I knew it right away and it was made more evident by the body language and expressions on the girls’ faces. I immediately pulled the girls aside and apologized to them. I let them know that I made a mistake today and I will make sure it does not happen again. An e-mail went out to all parents as soon as I got home acknowledging the error. A coach can cause unnecessary issues by not recognizing when a mistake is made and addressing it immediately.

Similarly, parents need to do the same thing. During another game I was coaching, a parent got into a verbal disagreement with the referee. Before the season started, I made it clear that my expectation was the referee would only be addressed by me. When I saw this happening, I knew I was going to have to address it with the parents. As soon as the game ended, the parent immediately found me and apologized for the behavior. Then, the parent went up to the other parents and apologized to them as well.

These are two examples of a situation which could have turned into an issue between the coach and parents, but instead became moments of growth in the relationship. As kids are taught to take accountability for their actions, adults need to practice what they preach and adhere to the same expectation.

To bridge the rift between coaches and parents, clear expectations set before the season and consistent communication throughout the season are required. Coaches need to view parents as allies, not adversaries, in helping the players and the team have a successful season and make them part of the process. Parents need to allow the coach to do their job and understand there are other kids and parents on the team who may not share their views on what is right or wrong.

Whether you are a coach or a parent, your goal should always be to make things better, not to just point out mistakes and criticize others. A difference of opinions is a good thing. It breeds debate and discussion which creates new ideas and better ways of doing things. If you do not like how something is done, do not be an agent of blame; be an agent of change. This will ensure coaches and parents are working together (closing the rift) throughout the season to provide an exceptional soccer environment for each child.

Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at tearp@superkickcolumbus.com

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